Introduction: The clinical presentations of Crohn disease of the small bowel vary from low to high complexity. Understanding the complexity of Crohn disease of the small bowel is important for the surgeon and the gastroenterologist caring for the patient and may be relevant for clinical research as a way to compare outcomes. Here, we present a categorization of complex small bowel Crohn disease and review its surgical treatment as a potential initial step toward the establishment of a definition of complex disease.
Results: The complexity of small bowel Crohn disease can be sorted into several categories: technical challenges, namely, fistulae, abscesses, bowel or ureteral obstruction, hemorrhage, cancer and thickened mesentery; extensive disease; the presence of short gut; a history of prolonged use of medications, particularly steroids, immunomodulators, and biological agents; and a high risk of recurrence.
Conclusions: Although the principles of modern surgical treatment of Crohn disease have evolved to bowel conservation such as strictureplasty techniques and limited resection margins, such practices by themselves are often not sufficient for the management of complex small bowel Crohn disease. This manuscript reviews each category of complex small bowel Crohn disease, with special emphasis on appropriate surgical strategy.