Background: There is a lack of prospective studies evaluating the natural history of colonic ischaemia (CI). We performed such a study to evaluate the clinical presentation, outcome, and mortality as well as clinical variables associated with poor prognosis.
Methods: An open, prospective, and multicentre study was conducted in 24 Spanish hospitals serving a population of 3.5 million people. The study included only patients who met criteria for definitive or probable CI. A website (www.colitisisquemica.org) provided logistical support.
Results: A total of 364 patients met criteria for inclusion. CI was suspected clinically in only 24.2% of cases. The distribution of clinical patterns was as follows: reversible colopathy (26.1%), transient colitis (43.7%), gangrenous colitis (9.9%), fulminant pancolitis (2.5%), and chronic segmental colitis (17.9%). A total of 47 patients (12.9%) had an unfavorable outcome as defined by mortality and/or the need for surgery. Multivariate analysis identified the following signs as independent risk factors for an unfavorable outcome: abdominal pain without rectal bleeding [odds ratio (OR) 3.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.6-9.3], non-bloody diarrhoea (OR 10; 95% CI = 3.7-27.4), and peritoneal signs (OR 7.3; 95% CI = 2.7-19.6). Unfavorable outcomes also were more frequent in isolated right colon ischaemia (IRCI) compared with non-IRCI (40.9 vs. 10.3%, respectively; p < 0.0001). The overall mortality rate was 7.7%.
Conclusions: The clinical presentation of CI is very heterogeneous, perhaps explaining why clinical suspicion of this disease is so low. The presence of IRCI, and occurrence of peritoneal signs or onset of CI as severe abdominal pain without bleeding, should alert the physician to a potentially unfavorable course.