Purpose: Traditional therapy for patients with terminal ileitis found at laparotomy for appendicitis has been to perform appendectomy when the cecum is normal and to leave the diseased ileum in place.
Methods: To determine the role of ileocolic resection in the setting of acute ileitis, records of 1,421 patients with Crohn's disease seen from 1986 to 1994 were retrospectively reviewed.
Results: Crohn's disease was found at laparotomy for presumed appendicitis in 36 patients (2.5 percent). Ten patients underwent ileocolic resection, 23 had appendectomy, and 3 had exploratory laparotomy alone. One patient whose appendix was removed also had ileocecal bypass. Of the 36 patients, 20 were women and 16 were men. Mean age at operation was 24 (range, 11-61) years, and mean follow-up time was 14 (range, 0.1-49) years. After initial ileocolic resection, five patients (50 percent) required no further resection, with a mean follow-up time of 12.4 (range, 4-19) years. None required more than three ileocolic resections, with a mean follow-up time of 18.1 (range, 4-49) years. Of 26 patients treated traditionally, 24 (92 percent) required ileocolic resection for intractability or complications of Crohn's disease. Thirty-eight percent required resection within one year and 65 percent within three years (intractability, 8; obstruction, 3; fistula, 4; and perforation, 2). Of 24 patients who subsequently underwent resection, only 6 (25 percent) required further small-bowel resection for Crohn's disease, with a mean follow-up time of 13 (range, 0.1-34) years.
Conclusion: The majority of patients found to have Crohn's disease at laparotomy for appendicitis required early ileocolic resection. Therefore, the traditional dictum of nonoperative therapy for these patients may not be in their best long-term interest and merits re-evaluation.