With the aim of investigating the presence of latent inflammatory process in the lungs of patients with Crohn's disease, 15 patients with Crohn's disease were evaluated by spirometry, the methacholine challenge test, induced sputum, and skin tests for inhaled antigens. Serum IgE, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and hematocrit were also determined. The patients were compared with 20 healthy controls by the Mann-Whitney and Fisher exact tests. Their respiratory physical examination was normal. None had a personal or family history of clinical atopy. None had a previous history of pulmonary disease, smoking or toxic bronchopulmonary exposure. None had sinusitis, migraine, diabetes mellitus, or cardiac failure. Four (26.6%) of the patients with Crohn's disease had a positive methacholine challenge test whereas none of the 20 controls had a positive methacholine test (P = 0.026, Fisher exact test). Patients with Crohn's disease had a higher level of lymphocytes in induced sputum than controls (mean 14.59%, range 3.2-50 vs 5.46%, 0-26.92%, respectively; P = 0.011, Mann-Whitney test). Patients with Crohn's disease and a positive methacholine challenge test had an even higher percentage of lymphocytes in induced sputum compared with patients with Crohn's disease and a negative methacholine test (mean 24.88%, range 12.87-50 vs 10.48%, 3.2-21.69%; P = 0.047, Mann-Whitney test). The simultaneous findings of bronchopulmonary lymphocytosis and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in patients with Crohn's disease were not reported up to now. These results suggest that patients with Crohn's disease present a subclinical inflammatory process despite the absence of pulmonary symptoms.
Inflammatory bowel disease; Crohn's disease; Bronchial hyperresponsiveness; Lymphocytosis