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Crohn's Disease Health Center

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Surgery for Crohn’s Disease

How is Crohn's disease treated?

There is no cure for Crohn's disease. Treatment is determined by the severity and location of the disease. Because the disease can sometimes go into remission on its own, it's not always possible to determine whether a specific treatment has been effective.

When Crohn's disease is active, treatment has three objectives:

  • Relieve symptoms
  • Control inflammation
  • Help with getting proper nutrition

Medications are generally the first step in treating Crohn's disease. A partial list of these drugs includes:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidiarrheals
  • Immune-suppressors, including:
    • Anti-TNF blockers
    • Corticosteroids

For people with nutrition problems, supplements are often prescribed.

Two-thirds to three-quarters of people with Crohn's disease will eventually need surgery to treat their illness. There are several reasons why surgery might be needed:

  • The medications are not working to control symptoms or do not work effectively enough.
  • The drug side effects are unbearable.
  • The person has serious complications that only surgery can correct.

What are the complications of Crohn's disease that might require surgery?

Patients who have the following complications of Crohn's may need surgery:

  • The formation of a stricture (a scar), which is a narrowing in the bowel that can cause obstructions (blockages)
  • Extensive bleeding in the intestine
  • A hole, or perforation, in the bowel wall
  • The formation of a fistula, which is a connection between two parts of the body that do not normally connect
  • The formation of an abscess, which is a pocket of pus caused by infection
  • A condition known as toxic megacolon, in which the colon, or large intestine, is severely stretched out and toxins spread through the blood.

What kinds of surgery are performed to treat Crohn's disease?

Surgery to treat Crohn's disease depends on several factors:

  • Where the disease is located in the intestines
  • How severe the disease is
  • The purpose of the surgery -- which complication it will treat

It's important to note that surgery, like medications, does not cure Crohn's disease. After the diseased part of the bowel is removed, Crohn's can reappear in some other part of the intestine or elsewhere.

Many people are wary of having surgery to treat Crohn's disease. Each part of the intestines serves a particular purpose and removing part of the bowels may impair bowel function, leading to diarrhea or malnutrition. Also, surgery is not for everyone. It is best to collect as much information as possible and to consult closely with the appropriate health care professionals to determine the best possible treatment.

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