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Typhlitis is an acute, inflammatory disease of the bowel that occurs in neutropenic patients.


Typhlitis presents 10-14 days after treatment with antineoplastic chemotherapy as it manifests in the setting of neutropenia [6] [7]. The features are fever, nausea, emesis, watery or bloody diarrhea [8], and right lower quadrant pain. Also, mucositis may precede the gastrointestinal symptoms.

Physical exam

Remarkable findings may include rebound tenderness and abdominal distention.

Infectious Mononucleosis
  • We present a unique case of an 8-year-old girl with recently diagnosed infectious mononucleosis having findings consistent with typhlitis on abdominal CT.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • mononucleosis or EBV infection Influenza Intestinal spirochetosis Intraabdominal abscess Intracranial venous thrombosis Isosporiasis Kawasaki disease Kikuchis disease and Kimura disease Kingella infection Laryngotracheobronchitis Legionellosis Leishmaniasis[books.google.com]
  • Sigirci A, Akinci A, Ozgen O, Ozen O: Neutropenic enterocolitis (typhlitis) associated with infectious mononucleosis. Pediatr Radiol 2006;36:155–157.[karger.com]
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (Infectious Mononucleosis) 141. Human Herpesvirus Types 6 and 7 142. Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (Human Herpesvirus Type 8) 143. Herpes B Virus Section C. Adenoviridae 144. Adenovirus Section D. Papovaviridae 145.[euro-libris.ro]
Abdominal Pain
  • Of these, 97 patients had abdominal pain, and 5 had radiologically proven typhlitis. Nonspecific abdominal pain developed on the 12 /- 11th day posttransplant, whereas patients in whom typhlitis developed were diagnosed on day 15.5 /- 7.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Abdominal pain is common during chemotherapy for childhood leukemia. Clinically differentiating typhlitis from appendicitis can be difficult.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhoea developed very rapidly while the patient was only moderately neutropenic. Metronidazole was prescribed without clinical benefit: the abdominal pain remained stable. The duration of neutropenia was very short (4 days).[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Typhlitis is clinically defined by the triad of neutropenia, abdominal pain, and fever. Radiologic evidence of colonic inflammation supports the diagnosis.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Frequent symptoms were abdominal pain (91%), fever (84%), abdominal tenderness (82%), and diarrhea (72%). Twelve percent of the patients were not neutropenic.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Abdominal Tenderness
  • The severity of typhlitis was related to the duration of neutropenia and the presence of fever or abdominal tenderness.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We describe five cases of typhlitis, characterized by fever, abdominal pain, abdominal tenderness and watery diarrhea, occurring during periods of neutropenia. In 4 cases, sonography showed thickening of the cecum wall.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • […] watery or bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain, may be localized in right lower quadrant ( Radiographics 2000;20:399 ) May cause perforation and require surgery Severity in childhood cancer is related to duration of neutropenia and presence of fever or abdominal[pathologyoutlines.com]
  • At that time, physical examination revealed increased bowel sounds and diffuse abdominal tenderness with no guarding or rebound.[nature.com]
Right Lower Quadrant Tenderness
  • Typhlitis refers to a clinical syndrome of fever and right lower quadrant tenderness in a neutropenic patient after cytotoxic chemotherapy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • She had abdominal pain and distension, decreased bowel sounds, guarding, and right lower quadrant tenderness without rebound.[nature.com]
Right Lower Quadrant Tenderness
  • Typhlitis refers to a clinical syndrome of fever and right lower quadrant tenderness in a neutropenic patient after cytotoxic chemotherapy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • She had abdominal pain and distension, decreased bowel sounds, guarding, and right lower quadrant tenderness without rebound.[nature.com]
  • Sonography appears to be a useful tool not only to detect typhlitis in patients with symptoms suggestive of the disease, but also to follow their clinical course.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A case of typhlitis (neutropenic colitis) is reported in which the initial diagnosis was suggested by CT.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Clinical findings were suggestive of appendicitis. Computed tomography scan of the abdomen was done and showed the presence of a neutropenic enterocolitis or typhlitis.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The successful outcome suggests that such an approach might improve the usually grim prognosis in patients whose underlying malignancy offers a clear chance for remission.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • This case suggests that typhlitis may cause delayed abdominal pathology. A history of this condition should be considered in the work-up of any patient with gastrointestinal or genitourinary pathology.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


Clinical assessment consists of the patient's history, physical exam, and the appropriate tests.

Laboratory tests

Neutropenia is confirmed through a complete blood cell (CBC) count, which is a critical test. Blood cultures, clostridium difficile toxin studies and stool cultures are also obtained. Additionally, a complete metabolic panel and arterial blood gas (ABG) should be performed to rule out acidosis.


Computed tomography (CT) is the diagnostic technique of choice. This demonstrates critical features such as diffuse mucosal thickening, edematous colon, and bowel inflammation [9] [10]. Ultrasonography is also used but its results are nonspecific and may display mucosal thickening of the ileum and cecum [10]. Plain abdominal x-rays are not helpful as this modality yields nonspecific findings.


A colonoscopy typically reveals edema, mucosal erythema, and ulcerations [11]. Another procedure, flexible sigmoidoscopy, may be performed to rule out other pathologies. However, these procedures are associated with complications and are therefore relatively contraindicated.


Patients with typhlitis are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and managed conservatively with serial abdominal exams, nasogastric suction, administration of intravenous (IV) fluids, and transfusion of blood products as needed. A key component of the therapy is treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics that include anaerobic coverage [12] [13]. Also, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) may be used in patients with significant neutropenia although it has not demonstrated benefit [14].

Surgery is reserved for patients with persistent GI hemorrhage after correction of neutropenia, intraperitoneal perforation, clinical deterioration indicative of sepsis, and the development of an acute abdominal condition that warrants surgical intervention [12] [15].

Note that narcotics, anticholinergic drugs, and anti-diarrheal medications should be avoided in patients with typhlitis.


Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can improve the outcome [5], which depends on prompt correction of the white blood cell (WBC) count. The mortality rate is 40% to 50% due to severe complications such as bowel perforation, gastrointestinal (GI) hemorrhage, GI obstruction, abdominal abscess, and sepsis.


Most cases of typhlitis are caused by cytotoxic chemotherapeutic drugs, particularly in those with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) [2] or malignancies in the breast, ovary, lung, and colorectum [1] [3].


Typhlitis is most prevalent in patients with immunocompromised states, especially in those undergoing chemotherapy.

Sex distribution
Age distribution


The cecum is susceptible to this condition due to its poor perfusion, microbial colonization, and lymphatic drainage [4]. The ileum and/or ascending colon may also be affected. With regards to the pathophysiology, it is thought that cytotoxic agents cause direct mucosal injury and neutropenia. The latter allows for overgrowth of enteric bacteria, in which endotoxins cause mucosal damage and ischemia [4].


Antibiotic prophylaxis in neutropenic patients may be helpful.


Typhlitis, also called neutropenic enterocolitis, is a necrotizing disease that affects the cecum and possibly other bowel segments in patients who recently received chemotherapy or those with an immunocompromised condition. This disease should be suspected in patients presenting with neutropenia, fever, and abdominal pain [1]. The diagnosis is achieved through the patient's history, physical exam, and the proper imaging studies. Patients are usually managed conservatively; surgery may occasionally be indicated.

Patient Information

Typhlitis is a condition that develops in patients with weakened immune systems who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer. The symptoms are abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. It is diagnosed through the history, physical exam, and imaging tests. Patients with this disease are treated with bowel rest, antibiotics, and other conservative measures unless surgery is necessary.



  1. Cloutier RL. Neutropenic enterocolitis. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 2009; 27(3):415-22.
  2. Dosik GM, Luna M, Valdivieso M, et al. Necrotizing colitis in patients with cancer. American Journal of Medicine. 1979; 67(4):646-56.
  3. Oehadian A, Fadjari TH. Neutropenic enterocolitis in breast cancer patient after taxane-containing chemotherapy. Acta Medica Indonesiana. 2008;40(1):29-33.
  4. Keidan RD, Fanning J, Gatenby RA, Weese JL. Recurrent typhlitis. A disease resulting from aggressive chemotherapy. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 1989;32(3):206-9.
  5. Mullassery D, Bader A, Battersby AJ, et al. Diagnosis, incidence, and outcomes of suspected typhlitis in oncology patients--experience in a tertiary pediatric surgical center in the United Kingdom. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 2009; 44(2):381-5.
  6. Avigan D, Richardson P, Elias A, et al. Neutropenic enterocolitis as a complication of high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue in patients with solid tumors: a case series with a review of the literature. Cancer. 1998; 83(3):409-14.
  7. Ibrahim NK, Sahin AA, Dubrow RA, et al. Colitis associated with docetaxel-based chemotherapy in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Lancet. 2000; 355(9200):281-3.
  8. Katz JA, Wagner ML, Gresik MV, Mahoney DH Jr, Fernbach DJ. Typhlitis. An 18-year experience and postmortem review. Cancer. 1990;65(4):1041-7.
  9. Gorschlüter M, Mey U, Strehl J, et al. Neutropenic enterocolitis in adults: systematic analysis of evidence quality. European Journal of Haematology. 2005;75(1):1-13.
  10. Cartoni C, Dragoni F, Micozzi A, et al. Neutropenic enterocolitis in patients with acute leukemia: prognostic significance of bowel wall thickening detected by ultrasonography. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2001;19(3):756-61.
  11. Gootenberg JE, Abbondanzo SL. Rapid diagnosis of neutropenic enterocolitis (typhlitis) by ultrasonography. American Journal of Pediatric Hematolology and Oncology. 1987;9(3):222-7.
  12. McNamara MJ, Chalmers AG, Morgan M, Smith SE. Typhlitis in acute childhood leukaemia: radiological features. Clinical Radiology. 1986;37(1):83-6.
  13. Shamberger RC, Weinstein HJ, Delorey MJ, Levey RH. The medical and surgical management of typhlitis in children with acute nonlymphocytic (myelogenous) leukemia. Cancer. 1986;57(3):603-9.
  14. Greil R, Psenak O, Roila F. ESMO Guidelines Working Group. Hematopoietic growth factors: ESMO recommendations for the applications. Annals of Oncology. 2008;19 (Suppl 2):ii116-8.
  15. Bradley SJ, Weaver DW, Maxwell NP, Bouwman DL. Surgical management of pseudomembranous colitis. American Surgery. 1988;54(6):329-32.

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Last updated: 2017-08-09 18:05