Approximately one million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition that causes the upper (esophagus, stomach and small intestines) or lower (colon) gastrointestinal (GI) tract to become inflamed. People with IBD have symptoms that include diarrhea, abdominal pain, infections and bleeding. There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although there is no cure for IBD, medical and surgical care can minimize symptoms and prevent complications. Learn the myths and facts about IBD.
As the surgical team of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center in the Division of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), our board certified colorectal surgeons offer the most innovative and effective treatment for patients with IBD conditions, including minimally invasive surgical techniques that improve lives.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. Crohn’s disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine, or the terminal ileum. Sometimes, the entire digestive tract (regional enteritis) is affected. Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition and can be hereditary. Though painful and, at times, debilitating, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be greatly reduced with proper medical and surgical care. Learn more about Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn's disease symptoms can be mild or severe, and symptoms may arise suddenly, without warning. You may also have periods of remission when you have none of the following symptoms:
Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease
People who have chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss and anemia may be examined for signs of Crohn's disease. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures may include:
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
There is no cure for Crohn's disease but treatment can help control symptoms. Treatment may include:
Lifestyle and Medical Treatment
Colon and rectal surgeons at BWH have advanced training in diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease, and use minimally invasive techniques that speed healing and preserve healthy bowels. Our board certified surgeons work closely with a multidisciplinary team of medical colleagues.
Surgical treatment includes:
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine (colon or bowel) and rectum. This inflammation triggers diarrhea, or frequent emptying of the colon. Ulcers (tiny open sores) may also form, producing pus and mucus, in addition to bleeding. Sometimes, the eyes, skin, liver and joints are affected as well. Ulcerative colitis can increase the risk for colon cancer. Learn more about ulcerative colitis.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary from person to person. You may have symptoms intermittently or all the time. Ulcerative colitis symptoms include:
Less common symptoms:
Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
A thorough physical examination, including blood tests to determine whether an anemic condition exists, or if the white blood cell count is elevated (a sign of inflammation) will be done. Diagnostic procedures may also include:
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
Your surgeon will recommend a step by step approach to relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The first course of action may be:
Lifestyle and Medical Treatment
Most people with ulcerative colitis do not need surgery. However, twenty-five to forty percent of patients require an operation to remove the colon or rectum because of bleeding, chronic illness, colon perforation or colon cancer. Doing this is often termed “curative,” because the diseased area has been removed. If just the affected area of the colon is removed, it is called a resection. This is usually done in one procedure and is performed as an open surgery, laparoscopic surgery or robotic surgery. Surgical options include:
You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced colon and rectal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.
The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. After surgery you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced medical and nursing staff.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.
Our surgeons are an integral part of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical center in Boston with its diverse clinicians and state-of-the-art facilities.
Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.
Visit the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation.
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