Crohn's-like complications in patients with ulcerative colitis after total proctocolectomy and ileal pouch-anal anastomosis

N S Goldstein, W W Sanford, J H Bodzin
American Journal of Surgical Pathology 1997, 21 (11): 1343-53
Total proctocolectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) has become an established surgical procedure for ulcerative colitis. Occasional patients who have undergone IPAA develop persistent or recurrent episodes of pouchitis (chronic pouchitis), from which a subset also develop gastrointestinal and systemic complications that are identical to those seen in Crohn's disease. These complications include enteric stenoses or fistulas in the pouch or pouch inlet segment, perianal fistulas or abscesses, pouch fistulas, arthritis, iridocyclitis, and pyoderma gangrenosum. The development of Crohn's-like gastrointestinal complications in a patient with chronic pouchitis frequently engenders concern that the pathologist misinterpreted the proctocolectomy specimen as ulcerative colitis instead of Crohn's disease. We describe eight patients who developed chronic pouchitis and Crohn's-like complications after IPAA and total proctocolectomy. In each case, concern was voiced about misinterpretation of the proctocolectomy specimen as ulcerative colitis instead of Crohn's disease after the development of the Crohn's-like complications. Preoperatively, all eight patients had characteristic clinical, radiographic, and pathologic features of ulcerative colitis. Review of the pathology specimens indicated that all eight had ulcerative colitis. Crohn's-like complications are most likely related to chronic pouchitis, which probably is a form of recrudescent ulcerative colitis within the novel environment of the pouch. A diagnosis of Crohn's disease after IPAA surgery should only be made when reexamination of the original proctocolectomy specimen shows typical pathologic features of Crohn's disease, Crohn's disease arises in parts of the gastrointestinal tract distant from the pouch, pouch biopsies contain active enteritis with granulomas, or excised pouches show the characteristic features of Crohn's disease, including granulomas. There were no histologic differences in the total colectomy specimens between the eight ulcerative colitis study patients and 16 control ulcerative colitis patients who had a favorable clinical outcome after IPAA surgery groups. Crohn's-like complications and chronic pouchitis does not necessarily imply an incorrect original interpretation of ulcerative colitis by the pathologist.

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