The incidence and clinical significance of upper gastrointestinal tract acute graft-versus-host disease (upper GI GVHD) were prospectively evaluated in 44 Japanese patients who underwent allogeneic (n = 26) or autologous (n = 18) stem cell transplantation. Endoscopic examination was routinely performed between days 20 and 50 post-transplant and when symptoms of upper GI and/or acute GVHD of other organs were present. The results were compared with the historical records of 49 allograft and 20 autograft recipients. The diagnosis of upper GI GVHD was confirmed by histologic findings of GVHD and persistent upper GI tract symptoms. The incidence of upper GI GVHD was 46% in the prospective allograft group, higher than in the retrospective group. Upper GI GVHD was not diagnosed in any autograft patients. Twelve of 19 patients with upper GI GVHD had skin GVHD, and two of the 12 had concurrent lower GI GVHD. Upper GI GVHD was successfully treated with steroids and did not progress to symptomatic lower GI GVHD. In addition, upper GI GVHD completely resolved without specific alteration in immunosuppressant therapy in six patients. No risk factors for upper GI GVHD could be identified. The presence of upper GI GVHD did not significantly affect early death rate, incidence of chronic GVHD, and overall survival. In conclusion, by the prospective evaluation of the upper GI tract by endoscopy we could accurately diagnose upper GI GVHD in half our allogeneic recipients. However, upper GI GVHD was successfully controlled with or without additional steroids in all cases and had little impact on transplant outcome.
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