, Volume 152, Issue 9, pp 727-729

Surgical treatment of Crohn disease in children and adolescents; how conservative can the paediatrician be?

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Thirty-eight children (21 male, 17 female, age 3–18 years), treated for Crohn disease in two Dutch university centres, were retrospectively studied in order to evaluate the results of conservative treatment and to find out in what way surgical treatment in this age group may have differed from treating adults with this disease. Both groups had an equal distribution of age and sex. Diarrhoea with discharge of blood and mucus, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, weight loss, fever and general discomfort were the most frequent presenting symptoms. Twenty-three children (60%) showed signs of malabsorption; 4 children (10%) had growth retardation. In 27 children (70%), 63 surgical procedures were performed (2.4 operations per child). There was no surgical mortality. Most operations were performed for ileocolitis and colon-only localizations needed most re-operations. Of the surgical procedures performed, 55% were excisional procedures. Already 3 years after the onset of symptoms, 50% of all children had had their first resection, whereas in adults, 50% of the patients undergo surgery 8 years after disease onset. Eight children were treated with split ileostomy. In only one of these children, operated for non-toxic colitis and severe steroid-dependent growth retardation, could the colon eventually be saved. The time between the onset of symptoms and the first operation seems to be shorter in children compared to adults. Severe malabsorption and growth retardation are additional specific indications for surgery for Crohn disease in childhood. The latter combined with non-toxic colitis, may perhaps be the only indication left for performing split ileostomy in Crohn disease.