Ulcerative Colitis

  • Medical Author: Adam Schoenfeld, MD
  • Medical Author: George Y. Wu, MD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Quick GuideUlcerative Colitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Surgery for ulcerative colitis

Surgery for ulcerative colitis usually involves removing the entire colon and the rectum. Removal of the colon and rectum is the only permanent cure for ulcerative colitis. This procedure also eliminates the risk of developing colon cancer. Surgery in ulcerative colitis is reserved for the following patients:

  1. Patients with fulminant colitis and toxic megacolon who are not responding readily to medications.
  2. Patients with long standing pancolitis or left-sided colitis who are at risk of developing colon cancers. Removal of the colon is important when changes are detected in the colon lining.
  3. Patients who have had years of severe colitis which has responded poorly to medications.

Standard surgery involves the removal of the entire colon, including the rectum. A small opening is made in the abdominal wall and the end of the small intestine is attached to the skin of the abdomen to form an ileostomy. Stool collects in a bag that is attached over the ileostomy. Recent improvements in the construction of ileostomies have allowed for continent ileostomies. A continent ileostomy is a pouch created from the intestine. The pouch serves as a reservoir similar to a rectum, and is emptied on a regular basis with a small tube. Patients with continent ileostomies do not need to wear collecting bags.

More recently, a surgery has been developed which allows stool to be passed normally through the anus. In an ileo-anal anastomosis, the large intestine is removed and the small intestine is attached just above the anus. Only the diseased lining of the anus is removed and the muscles of the anus remain intact. In this "pull-through" procedure, the normal route of stool elimination is maintained. This procedure has a relatively good success rate, although pouchitis (inflammation of the distal ileum now acting as the rectum) is a well known complication (that should be confirmed by endoscopy) that is manifested by increased diarrhea, urgency, bleeding, and pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/29/2016

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