Background: The purpose was to assess in Italy the clinical features at diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children.
Methods: In 1996 an IBD register of disease onset was established on a national scale.
Results: Up to the end of 2003, 1576 cases of pediatric IBD were recorded: 810 (52%) ulcerative colitis (UC), 635 (40%) Crohn's disease (CD), and 131 (8%) indeterminate colitis (IC). In the period 1996-2003 an increase of IBD incidence from 0.89 to 1.39/10(5) inhabitants aged <18 years was observed. IBD was more frequent among children aged between 6 and 12 years (57%) but 20% of patients had onset of the disease under 6 years of age; 28 patients were <1 year of age. Overall, 11% had 1 or more family members with IBD. The mean interval between onset of symptoms and diagnosis was higher in CD (10.1 months) and IC (9 months) versus UC (5.8 months). Extended colitis was the most frequent form in UC and ileocolic involvement the most frequent in CD. Upper intestinal tract involvement was present in 11% of CD patients. IC locations were similar to those of UC. Bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain were the most frequent symptoms in UC and IC, and abdominal pain and diarrhea in CD. Extraintestinal symptoms were more frequent in CD than in UC.
Conclusions: The IBD incidence in children and adolescents in Italy shows an increasing trend for all 3 pathologies. UC diagnoses exceeded CD.