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Crohn's Disease
















What is Crohn's disease?

Crohns disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory condition of the bowel. It can affect both small and large bowel, and the causes of this condition are currently unknown. The symptoms it causes can sometimes be confused with Ulcerative Colitis.




What symptoms can Crohn's disease cause?

Symptoms vary between people, but will tend to have periods of exacerbations followed by 'quiet' periods. Generally, symptoms of Crohn's may include:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness

  • Fever

  • Loss of energy

  • Weight loss

  • Growth problems in children


The inflammation from Crohn's disease can lead to thickening of the bowel wall, which may eventually cause complete obstruction of the bowel. Fistulas, abscesses and bowel perforations can occur, as can painful fissures of the anus. Bowel cancer is a rare complication of Crohn's disease. Other problems associated with Crohn's include eye, liver, skin and spine problems and occasionally gallstones.


What tests can be done for suspected Crohn's disease?

Your doctor may arrange a number of tests, including blood tests, special x-rays, scans and telescope tests such as colonoscopy.


What treatment options are there for Crohn's?

Malnourishment can be helped with a specially planned diet and vitamins. Steroids can be used during 'flare-ups', and some control may be achieved with medication or special enemas.

Surgery cannot cure Crohn's disease, as any part of the bowel can be affected, but is indicated in cases of obstruction, fistulas and abscesses. The surgery will aim to remove the part of bowel in question, and then re-attach the bowel ends together again.


What are the risks of surgery for Crohn's?

  • Hernia - if the deep tummy muscles do not heal well after Crohn's surgery, the underlying bowel could push through the muscle, being seen or felt as a lump. Hernias may need an operation to treat them.

  • Infection - this may require antibiotics, or rarely further surgery.

  • Injury to other structures - injury to bowel, nerves or blood vessels is rare but can occur, which may need further surgery.

  • Bowel leakage - after the bowel ends are joined together there is a small risk that a leak may occur, allowing bowel contents to escape into the abdomen. This often needs further surgery.

  • Adhesions - surgery in the abdomen will lead to scar tissue forming. This can stick to nearby bowel, which may cause problems such as obstruction. This can require further surgery.

  • Difficulty passing urine - if this happens you may need a tube (catheter) for a day or two to help you pass water.

  • Recurrence - the problems such as abscesses can recur, needing further surgery.

  • Blood clots in the legs - clots in the calf (deep vein thrombosis / DVT) can usually be treated with medication, but a DVT can (rarely) move to the lungs. This can cause breathing difficulty, or even be life threatening.



Other SurgeryWise articles

You may also be interested to read our articles on Bowel Cancer, Diverticulitis or Ulcerative Colitis


Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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