Background: The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is increasing among adolescents. In all, 25% of patients are diagnosed before the age of 16, when they are traditionally transferred from the pediatric to the adult service.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective case-controlled study to characterize patients treated in a novel transitional adolescent-young adult IBD clinic. This compared disease extent, radiation exposure, therapeutic strategy, and requirement for surgery in 100 adolescents with controls from our adult IBD clinic matched for disease duration.
Results: The median (range) ages for the adolescent and adult population was 19 (16-28) and 43 (24-84), with a median age at diagnosis of 15 (3-26) and 39 (13-82) respectively (P < 0.001). Crohn's disease was significantly more common in the adolescents. Disease distribution was ileocolonic in 69% of adolescents and 28% of adults, restricted to the ileum in 20% of adolescents and 47% of adults, and colonic only in 11% and 22%, respectively. Upper gastrointestinal involvement occurred in 23% of adolescents, but was not seen in adults (P < 0.01). Total ulcerative colitis was seen in 67% of adolescents and 44% of adults (P < 0.01). Contrary to previous data adolescents did not receive more ionizing radiation than adults. Requirement for immunosuppressive therapy was higher in the adolescent group (53% versus 31%, respectively, P < 0.01). Likewise, 20% of adolescents had required biological therapy compared to only 8% in the adult cohort (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Gastroenterologists should recognize that IBD is more complex when presenting in adolescence and our data support the creation of specific adolescent transitional clinics.