Acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding is a rare complication of Crohn's disease, which represents a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. The aim of this study was to define epidemiological characteristics and therapeutic options of hemorrhagic forms of Crohn's disease.
Thirty-four cases of hemorrhagic forms of Crohn's disease were studied retrospectively. Acute lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage was defined as acute rectal bleeding originating in diseased bowel and requiring a transfusion of at least 2 units of red blood cells within 24 h. Upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage or anal lesions and postoperative bleeding were excluded.
Mean age at time of hemorrhage was 34.2 ± 14 yr. Mean duration of disease before the hemorrhage was 5.6 ± 6 yr. The hemorrhage occurred during a flare up of the disease in 35% of cases. The hemorrhage revealed Crohn's disease in 23.5% of cases. The hemorrhage was more frequent in colonic disease (85%) than in isolated small bowel disease (15%) (p < 0.0001). The origin of bleeding was identified in 65% of cases, by colonoscopy (60%), by angiography (3 patients), or at surgery (1 patient). The bleeding lesion was an ulcer in 95% of cases, most often in the left colon. The treatment was surgical in 20.5% (colectomy in 36%), endoscopical (7 patients, including 5 successes), or medical. Hemorrhage recurred in 12 patients (35%) within a mean time of 3 yr (4 days–8 yr), requiring surgery in 3 cases. No death was observed.
This study performed in a series characterized by a nonsurgical recruitment, the largest to date, shows that hemorrhagic forms of Crohn's disease may reveal disease in 23.5%, occurs in quiescent Crohn's disease in two-thirds of cases. Given the potential efficacy of endoscopical or medical treatment, as well as the absence of mortality, a conservative approach may be suggested as first-line therapy in the majority of patients.