Ischaemic colitis: practical challenges and evidence-based recommendations for management

Alex Hung, Tom Calderbank, Mark A Samaan, Andrew A Plumb, George Webster
Frontline Gastroenterology 2021, 12 (1): 44-52
Ischaemic colitis (IC) is a common condition with rising incidence, and in severe cases a high mortality rate. Its presentation, severity and disease behaviour can vary widely, and there exists significant heterogeneity in treatment strategies and resultant outcomes. In this article we explore practical challenges in the management of IC, and where available make evidence-based recommendations for its management based on a comprehensive review of available literature. An optimal approach to initial management requires early recognition of the diagnosis followed by prompt and appropriate investigation. Ideally, this should involve the input of both gastroenterology and surgery. CT with intravenous contrast is the imaging modality of choice. It can support clinical diagnosis, define the severity and distribution of ischaemia, and has prognostic value. In all but fulminant cases, this should be followed (within 48 hours) by lower gastrointestinal endoscopy to reach the distal-most extent of the disease, providing endoscopic (and histological) confirmation. The mainstay of medical management is conservative/supportive treatment, with bowel rest, fluid resuscitation and antibiotics. Specific laboratory, radiological and endoscopic features are recognised to correlate with more severe disease, higher rates of surgical intervention and ultimately worse outcomes. These factors should be carefully considered when deciding on the need for and timing of surgical intervention.

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