Early Surgical Intervention for Acute Ulcerative Colitis Is Associated with Improved Postoperative Outcomes

J Gastrointest Surg. 2017 Oct;21(10):1675-1682. doi: 10.1007/s11605-017-3538-3. Epub 2017 Aug 17.


Background: Timing of surgical intervention for acute ulcerative colitis has not been fully examined during the modern immunotherapy era. Although early surgical intervention is recommended, historical consensus for "early" ranges widely. The purpose of this study was to evaluate outcomes according to timing of urgent surgery for acute ulcerative colitis.

Methods: All non-elective total colectomies in ulcerative colitis patients were identified in the National Inpatient Sample from 2002 to 2014. Procedures, comorbidities, diagnoses, and in-hospital outcomes were collected using International Classification of Disease, 9th Revision codes. An operation was defined as early if within 24 hours of admission. Results were compared between the early versus delayed surgery groups.

Results: We found 69,936 patients that were admitted with ulcerative colitis, and 2650 patients that underwent non-elective total colectomy (3.8%). Early intervention was performed in 20.4% of patients who went to surgery. More early operations were performed laparoscopically (28.1% versus 23.3%, p = 0.021) and on more comorbid patients (Charlson Index, p = 0.008). Median total hospitalization costs were $20,948 with an early operation versus $33,666 with a delayed operation (p < 0.001). Delayed operation was an independent risk for a complication (OR = 1.46, p = 0.001). Increased hospitalization costs in the delayed surgery group were statistically significantly higher with a reported complication (OR = 3.00, p < 0.001) and lengths of stay (OR = 1.26, p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Delayed operations for acute ulcerative colitis are associated with increased postoperative complications, increased lengths of stay, and increased hospital costs. Further prospective studies could demonstrate that this association leads to improved outcomes with immediate surgical intervention for medically refractory ulcerative colitis.

Keywords: Colectomy; Emergency surgery; Refractory; Ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colectomy* / economics
  • Colectomy* / methods
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / economics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / surgery*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States