Get answers to your Ulcerative Colitis questions.
Inflammatory bowel disease - ulcerative colitis; Colitis - ulcerative
Proctocolectomy is removal of the entire colon, including the lower part of the rectum and the sphincter muscles that control bowel movements. It can achieve a complete cure, but it is a last resort.
Ileostomy. In some proctocolectomies, the surgeon creates an opening in the abdominal wall (called a stoma) to allow passage of waste material. This part of the procedure is referred to as an ileostomy, and the stoma is created in the lower right corner of the abdomen. The surgeon then connects cut ends of the small intestine to this opening. An ostomy bag is placed over the opening and accumulates waste matter. It requires emptying several times a day.
Ileoanal Anastomosis. Ileal pouch anal anastomosis (IPAA), also simply called ileoanal anastomosis, has now largely replaced ileostomy because it preserves part of the anus and allows for more normal bowel movements. The procedure creates a natural pouch to collect waste, rather than using an ileostomy bag. The standard procedure involves:
Flatulence is the most socially distressing problem. Unfortunately many of the fiber rich vegetables and whole grains that can benefit patients with ulcerative colitis can also cause gas. (Surgical patients should avoid or chew thoroughly insoluble fiber foods, such as popcorn, olives, and vegetable skins, which can obstruct the stoma.) Some pouching systems have filters that can help limit flatulence. Typically, flatulence occurs 2 - 4 hours after eating, which may help patients time their meals to ensure privacy afterward.
Patients must increase fluid intake, and include not only water but also broth, sports drinks, and vegetable juice to maintain appropriate levels of sodium and potassium.
Patients should avoid time-released, coated, or large pills, which often are not completely absorbed and may block the stoma.
The ileostomy does not interfere with bathing or showering or most physical activity. (Patients should avoid contact sports.) As a rule, the surgeries do not impair sexual function.
Complications are common with any intestinal operation. In about 5 - 10% of IPAA procedures, complications occur that require conversion to an ileostomy. In general, patient satisfaction is very high with this procedure. Over 80% of patients report better or much better quality of life 5 years after the procedure. According to one study, nearly all patients can expect to have a functioning pouch for at least 20 years. Most patients can postpone their bowel movements until they are convenient. Bowel movements still average about six a day.
Pouchitis. Inflammation of the pouch (pouchitis) is the most common complication of the pouch procedures, and one study reported its occurrence in about 30% of patients. Symptoms include rectal bleeding, cramps, and fever. It can usually be easily treated. With antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl) or ciprofloxacin (Cipro).
Bowel obstruction may occur although it is less common than pouchitis. With most patients, this condition can be treated through avoiding foods for several days and administering intravenous fluids. In about a third of patients with bowel obstruction, surgery may need to be performed to remove the blockage.
Pouch failure occurs in a small percentage of patients. It requires permanent removal of the pouch and use of ileostomy.
Irritable Pouch Syndrome. Irritable pouch syndrome is a problem that includes frequent movements, an urgent need to defecate, and abdominal pain. There are no signs of inflammation, however, as there are with pouchitis. Stress and diet play a role in this condition, and it is usually relieved after a bowel movement.
Infertility. IPAA triples the risk of infertility in women with ulcerative colitis. The surgery may cause scarring or blocking of fallopian tubes, which increases the risk of infertility. About half of women who undergo this procedure become infertile.
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