Malignant melanoma: Patterns of metastasis to the small bowel, reliability of imaging studies, and clinical relevance

Greg N. Bender, Dean D.T. Maglinte, John H. McLarney, Douglas Rex, Frederick M. Kelvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: The aims of this study were to determine the frequency of different patterns of melanoma metastases to small bowel on radiological examination, and to assess the reliability of the most commonly used radiological methods for detecting these lesions. METHODS: The records of cases archived as melanoma metastatic to the small bowel of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology were reviewed. The clinical information, type of imaging procedure performed, and radiological features were analyzed and compared to the findings at surgery and at autopsy. RESULTS: A total of 32 patients had clinical and surgical data with pathological confirmation. Seven patients had metastasis involving the duodenum, 22 had jejunal involvement, and 11 had ileal involvement. Metastases were categorized as polypoid, cavitary, infiltrating, or exoenteric. The polypoid pattern was seen in 20 patients (63%), six of whom showed multiple polypoid lesions (>10), referred to aspolyposis. The "target lesion," a discrete polypoid mass with a central ulceration, was observed in only three (9%) of the 32 patients. Eight patients (25%) demonstrated a cavitary pattern, a circumferential mass with inner marginal necrosis, and five (16%) showed an infiltrating pattern. One patient (3%) had an exoenteric lesion with a fistulous tract. The small bowel follow-through demonstrated 32 of 55 metastases (sensitivity 58%). Contrast-enhanced CT demonstrated 32 of 48 masses (sensitivity 66%). Of the six cases of malignant polyposis, none were identified using CT, and only two were diagnosed by small bowel follow-through. CONCLUSIONS: The polypoid pattern, equally distributed between the jejunum and ileum, is the most common manifestation of metastatic melanoma to the small bowel. The target lesion was infrequently seen in this series. Small bowel follow-through and conventional CT seem to be unreliable in demonstrating melanoma metastases to the small bowel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2392-2400
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 31 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology

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