Background: Patients with Crohn's disease (CD) are not commonly considered as candidates for ileal pouch/anal anastomosis (IPAA). This approach has been avoided because of the poor results observed, retrospectively, in patients with an initial diagnosis of ulcerative colitis who were found to have CD on examination of the resected specimen. However, in 1985, we decided to investigate an alternative to coloproctectomy with definitive end-ileostomy by a prospective study of IPAA for selected patients with CD.
Methods: Between 1985 and 1992, 31 patients with CD, but with no evidence of anoperineal or small-bowel disease, were recruited to our study. They comprised 15 men and 16 women whose mean age was 36 years (SD 14; range 16-72). All CD patients underwent IPAA. The short-term and long-term functional results of this procedure were compared with those of 71 ulcerative colitis patients who also underwent IPAA during the same period in our unit. Mean follow-up was 59 (SD 25) months.
Findings: No significant differences were observed between patients with CD and ulcerative colitis in the postoperative complication rate. Of the 31 CD patients, six (19%) experienced specific complications 9 months to 6 years after surgery: three had pouch-perineal fistulas, which required pouch excision in two cases; one had a pouch-vaginal fistula that was treated by gracilis muscle interposition; and one had an extrasphincteric abscess, which was treated surgically. Two patients (6%), one of whom was treated for an extrasphincteric abscess, experienced CD recurrence on the reservoir, and were treated successfully with azathioprine. At 5-year follow-up, there were no significant differences between patients with CD and ulcerative colitis in stool frequency (5.0 [2.0] vs 4.7 [1.4] per day; p=0.68), continence, gas/stool discrimination, leak or need for protective pads, and sexual activity.
Interpretation: Our results show that in selected cases of CD without anoperineal or small-bowel manifestations, IPPA can be recommended as an alternative to coloprotectomy with definitive end-ileostomy, when rectal resection is essential.