Hyperplastic polyposis


Multiple or large hyperplastic (metaplastic) polyps of the large intestine, typically located proximally, and often exhibiting familial clustering.

Synonyms and historical annotation

The term metaplastic polyposis has been used synonymously. Early descriptions emphasized a multiplicity of hyperplastic polyps throughout the colorectum and caused diagnostic confusion with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) {2114}. The condition was also reported to occur in young male subjects. These descriptions (predating the colonoscopic era) were biased towards cases mimicking FAP or showing unusual aspects such as young age of onset. In the colonoscopic era, the features of large polyp size and/or distribution throughout the col-orectum serve to distinguish hyperplastic polyposis from the far more common occurrence of small hyperplastic polyps in the distal colon and rectum. Hyperplastic polyposis should be distinguished from sporadic hyperplastic polyps in view of its association with col-orectal neoplasia {1198, 126} and reports of familial clustering {849}.

Diagnostic criteria

In the absence of generally accepted guidelines on what would constitute the minimum number of polyps or polyp size to warrant a diagnosis of hyperplastic polyposis, the following criteria are recommended: (1) At least five histological-

Fig. 6.74 Colectomy specimen, hyperplastic polyposis.

ly diagnosed hyperplastic polyps proximal to the sigmoid colon of which two are greater than 10 mm in diameter, or (2) any number of hyperplastic polyps occurring proximal to the sigmoid colon in an individual who has a first degree relative with hyperplastic polyposis, or (3) more than 30 hyperplastic polyps of any size, but distributed throughout the colon.

Clinical features

Unless there is associated malignancy, hyperplastic polyposis is generally asymptomatic. Larger hyperplastic polyps may occasionally present with rectal bleeding. The condition may be diagnosed in adults of all ages. Although considered as rare, the condition is probably under-reported.

Firm management guidelines have not been developed. The rather frequently observed association with adenomatous polyps and colon carcinomas suggests that some surveillance of patients is required, with generous biopsy sampling and polypectomy as appropriate, particularly of larger polyps, to determine if neoplasia is present. Subtotal colectomy is occasionally necessary in patients with multiple adenomatous polyps if there are numerous and rapidly growing hyperplastic polyps that make it nearly impossible to selectively eliminate neoplastic lesions.


Small polyps may be indistinguishable from diminutive adenomas. High resolution videoendoscopy, combined with dye spraying, will demonstrate the diagnostic star-shaped crypt opening {1191}. Larger hyperplastic polyps may either present as pale flat lesions on the crest of a mucosal fold or may become protuberant. The head may darken and become lobulated, simulating an adenoma. The colonoscopic phenotype in some patients simulates FAP with scores to hundreds of 1mm to 5mm in diameter polyps, while others exhibit a smaller number of centimeter sized darker ses-

Fig. 6.73 Hyperplastic polyp in a patient with hyper-plastic polyposis.

sile lesions that grossly may be confused with multiple villous adenomas. With either phenotype, one or several adenomas may be found in addition to the hyperplastic polyps. High resolution videoendoscopy suggests that a mixed hyperplastic and cerebriform pattern may be indicative of serrated adenoma {1191}.


Most hyperplastic polyps are indistinguishable from their common counterparts, apart from their large size. As in the sporadic hyperplastic polyp, the pro-liferative zone is increased but remains confined to the lower crypt. There is abnormal retention of cells in the upper maturation zone associated with the characteristic appearance of serration. A small proportion contains foci of intraep-ithelial neoplasia (dysplasia) that may

Fig. 6.75 Immunohistochemistry for the hMLH1 gene product in a mixed hyperplastic polyp / adenoma in a case of hyperplastic polyposis. Normal expression (right) is lost in the glands with intraepi-thelial neoplasia (left).
Fig. 6.76 A Serrated adenoma in a patient with hyperplastic polyposis. B Mixed hyperplastic polyp / adenoma in a patient with hyperplastic polyposis.

either resemble a tubular, tubulovillous, or villous adenoma, or retain a serrated architecture supporting a diagnosis of serrated adenoma {1987, 1092, 337}. Hyperplastic polyps and serrated adenomas show a similar mucinous phenotype exemplified by upregulation of the goblet cell mucin MUC2, reduction of the intestinal mucin MUC4 and neo-expression of the gastric mucin MUC5AC. This suggests that hyperplastic polyps and serrated adenomas represent a histogenet-ic continuum {139}.

Unusual growth patterns, including inversion and pseudoinvasion, with associated disorganization of the muscularis mucosae, are more characteristic of large polyps {1729, 1773} and will there fore be over-represented in hyperplastic polyposis.

It has been suggested that hyperplastic polyposis be distinguished from 'serrated adenomatous polyposis' {1944}. However, the histological distinction between a large hyperplastic polyp and a serrated adenoma is not straightforward and there is probably no sharp division between hyperplastic polyposis and 'serrated adenomatous polyposis'.


Despite being regarded as non-neoplas-tic, hyperplastic polyps may show clonal genetic changes, including chromosomal rearrangements at 1p, KRAS mutation and low levels of DNA microsatellite insta bility {775}. Mutations of TP53 and increased immunoexpression of p53 are limited to areas of high-grade intraepithe-lial neoplasia in serrated adenomas {720}. In hyperplastic polyposis, microsatellite instability is seen in areas of intraepithelial neoplasia. High levels of microsatellite instability (MSI-H) are associated with loss of expression of the DNA mismatch repair protein hMLH1 in these lesions {844}. This observation fits with the suggestion that DNA microsatellite instability may be caused by the silencing of DNA mismatch repair genes by methylation of the promoter region {361}. A mutation affecting a gene that controls methylation might account for familial and non-familial cases of hyperplastic polyposis, placing this condition within the spectrum of colorectal lesions showing mismatch repair deficiency {1950}. An epige-netic mechanism involving disordered methylation would explain polyp multiplicity and the tendency for hyperplastic polyps to regress spontaneously {986}.


Sporadic hyperplastic polyps are generally believed not to be associated with an increased cancer risk. Evidence for hyperplastic polyposis being a precan-cerous lesion includes the observation of mixed hyperplastic/adenomatous polyps in this condition and the synchronicity of hyperplastic polyposis and colorectal cancer {1198, 126}. The genetic changes noted above offer further evidence for a direct relationship between hyperplastic polyposis and colorectal carcinoma, and support the concept of a hyperplastic polyp-adenoma-carcinoma sequence {775}.

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