Surgery in ulcerative colitis: When? How?

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2018 Feb-Apr:32-33:71-78. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2018.05.017. Epub 2018 Jun 14.


Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is an idiopathic chronically-remitting inflammatory bowel disorder characterized by a contiguous inflammation of the colonic mucosa affecting the rectum that generally extends proximally in a continuous manner through the entire colon. Patients typically experience intermittent exacerbations, with symptoms characterized by bloody diarrhea associated with urgency and tenesmus. The anatomical extent of mucosal involvement is the most important factor determining disease course and is an important predictor of colectomy. The precise etiology of UC is unknown. However, a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors seems to have a key role in the development of the disease. UC usually is mildly active but it can be a life-threatening condition because of colonic and systemic complications, and later in the disease course due to the development of colorectal cancer. Interestingly, even if pathogenetic features detected in patients with sporadic CRC can be also found in UC-related colorectal cancer (UC-CRC), this latter is, usually, driven by an inflammation-driven pathway rising from a non-neoplastic inflammatory epithelium to dysplasia to cancer. Thus, a long-term follow-up with colonoscopy surveillance has been recommended. Approximately 15% of UC patients develop an acute attack of severe colitis, and 30% of these patients require colectomy. The initial treatment strategy in UC typically follows the traditional step-up approach. One third of the patients will not respond to steroid therapy and cyclosporine and infliximab are the most common salvage agents employed in these cases in order to avoid emergent surgery. Unfortunately, although a significant short-term benefit have been observed after infliximab treatment, the colectomy rate have remained stable. Surgery in UC depends on the stage of the disease as well as patient's status and is divided into the following settings: urgent, emergent and elective. Despite many efforts the surgical management of UC remains a significant challenge. A multidisciplinary management of UC is key in order to define the best timing and the best procedure for each patient in an individualized basis.

Keywords: Inflammatory bowel disease; Medications; Multidisciplinary management; Surgery; Timing; Ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / surgery*
  • Colonoscopy / methods*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans