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Ulcerative Colitis: When Surgery Is Needed

Topic Overview

Surgery is likely to be needed for ulcerative colitis for the following reasons.

  • Medicines and nutritional therapy have failed to manage severe symptoms.
  • Toxic megacolon does not respond to medical treatment within 4 days (or sooner in some cases).
  • Holes form in the large intestine. (This is called perforation.)
  • You have colon cancer or a significantly increased risk of cancer. (This risk is found by biopsies.) Or you have a narrowing in the intestine that can't be told apart from cancer. You may need surgery even if you don't have symptoms of active disease.
  • Severe, disabling complications occur outside the colon. But many complications do not respond to surgery.
  • You have severe bleeding that requires ongoing blood transfusions.
  • Slow growth or other serious complications occur in children.

People may choose to have surgery to improve their quality of life, cure ulcerative colitis, or prevent colon cancer.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Current as of October 8, 2012

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