Outcome following emergency surgery for refractory severe ulcerative colitis in a tertiary care centre in India

Sujoy Pal, Peush Sahni, Girish K Pande, Subrat K Acharya, Tushar K Chattopadhyay
BMC Gastroenterology 2005, 5: 39

BACKGROUND: Steroid-based intensive medical therapy for severe ulcerative colitis is successful in 60-70% of such patients. Patients with complications or those refractory to medical therapy require emergency colectomy for salvage. Little is known about the impact of timing of surgical intervention and surgical outcomes of such patients undergoing emergency surgery in India where the diagnosis is often delayed or missed in patients who are poor, malnourished and non-compliant to medical treatment.

METHODS: The clinical records of all patients undergoing emergency surgery for severe ulcerative colitis or its complication in the Department of GI surgery AIIMS, New Delhi, India, between January 1985 and December 2003 were retrieved and data pertaining to demographic features, duration of intensive medical therapy, presence of complications, time from admission to emergency surgery, surgical procedure, in-hospital morbidity and mortality and follow up status extracted.

RESULTS: A total of 72 patients underwent emergency surgery (Subtotal colectomy: 60; ileostomy alone under local anaesthesia: 12). Poor nutritional status was seen in 61% of the patients. Twenty-one patients (29%) underwent emergency surgery for complications of severe ulcerative colitis such as colonic perforation (spontaneous 6, iatrogenic 4), massive lower gastrointestinal haemorrhage (5), toxic megacolon (4) and large bowel obstruction (2). The remaining patients (n = 51) underwent emergency surgery following failed intensive therapy; 17 underwent surgery < or = 5 days (Group I) and 34 were operated > 5 days (Group II) after initiation of intensive therapy. In this group all the post-operative deaths (n = 8) occurred in those who were operated after 5 days. The difference in mortality in these two groups (i.e. surgical intervention < or = or > 5 days) was statistically significant {0/17 (Group I) vs 8/34 (Group II); p = 0.03}. Overall, 12 patients died (in-hospital mortality: 16.7%). The mortality was higher (10/43; 23.3%) in our early experience (i.e. 1985-1995) when compared to our subsequent experience (2/29; 6.9%) (1996-2003). A total of 48 patients (including 3 awaiting a restorative procedure) are alive on follow up (66.7%; 3 patients lost to follow up). A restorative procedure could be successfully completed in 81% of the survivors of the emergency procedure.

CONCLUSION: To optimize the outcome, a combined team of physicians and surgeons should be involved in the management of patients with severe ulcerative colitis with focus on nutritional support, correction of metabolic derangements, close clinical monitoring and timely assessment for the need for emergency surgery. This retrospective analysis shows that improved results can be achieved with experience and by following a policy of early surgical intervention within 5 days, especially in patients who have failed intensive medical therapy.

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