Intestinal TMA, a upcoming and serious problem after HSCT, usually manifests diarrhea, vomiting, GI bleeding and abdominal pain as initial clinical presentations similar to those of intestinal GVHD. But intestinal TMA should be distinguished from GVHD, because they needed to be treated in absolutely different way. Here we investigated the incidence of intestinal TMA and evaluated their clinical progressions in HSCT patients. We retrospectively reviewed 243 gastrointestinal mucosal biopsy slides obtained from HSCT patients having suffered from GI problems in the Catholic University Hospital, from 2000 to 2004. The collected cases were reviewed by two pathologists blindly and classified into TMA; showing microthrombi formation in the lumina of microvasculatures, GVHD; showing epithelial apoptosis and/or loss of glands, TMA+GVHD and non-specific inflammation. And next, their incidence and clinical outcomes were analyzed. On histopathological examination, 15 out of 243 cases (6.2%) showed luminal thrombi of microvasculature compatible with TMA, 58 cases (23.9%) showed findings compatible with GVHD, 3 cases (1.2%) showed both TMA and GVHD, and 173 cases (71.2%) showed nonspecific gastroenteritis. On peripheral blood smear examination, all 15 TMA cases showed less than 1% of fragmented RBC at the time of biopsy. But 2 out of 15 cases (13.3%) showed increase to 8% and 10% of fragmented RBC in follow-up, and they had been aggravated clinically and improved only after treatments including discontinuing immunosuppressant and plasma exchange. Among 58 GVHDs, 34 patients (75.9%) were improved with steroid pulse therapy, but 14 patients (24.1%) failed. These results show that intestinal TMA is not infrequent in HSCT patients and can be combined with intestinal GVHD. In conclusion, intestinal TMA should be recognized in pathological diagnosis of HSCT patients. It is important to differentiate intestinal TMA from GVHD in patients suffering from severe and refractory diarrhea after HSCT.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.