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Assessment of the Quality of Patient-Orientated Information on Surgery for Crohn’s Disease on the Internet

Yeung, Trevor M. M.A., M.B.B.Chir., M.R.C.S., D.Phil.1,2; Sacchi, Matteo M.D.3; Mortensen, Neil J. M.B.Ch.B., M.A., M.D., F.R.C.S.1,2; Spinelli, Antonino M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S.C.R.S.3,4

doi: 10.1097/DCR.0000000000000424
Original Contributions: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

BACKGROUND: The Internet is a vast resource for patients to search for health information on the treatment of Crohn’s disease.

OBJECTIVE: This study examines the quality of Web sites that provide information to adults regarding Crohn’s disease, including treatment options and surgery.

DESIGN: Two search engines (Google and Yahoo) and the search terms “surgery for Crohn’s disease” were used. The first 50 sites of each search were assessed. Sites that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were evaluated for content and scored by using the DISCERN instrument, which evaluates the quality of health information on treatment choices.

RESULTS: One hundred sites were examined, of which 13 were duplicates. Sixty-two sites provided patient-orientated information. The other sites included 7 scientific articles, 3 blogs, 2 links, 6 forums, 3 video links, and 4 dead links. Of the 62 Web sites that provided patient information for adults, only 15 (24.2%) had been updated within the past 2 years. Only 9 (14.5%) were affiliated with hospitals and clinics. The majority of sites (33, 53.2%) were associated with private companies with commercial interests. Only half of the Web sites provided details on treatment options, and most Web sites did not provide any information on symptoms and procedure details. Just 5 Web sites (8.1%) described the risks of surgery, and only 7 (11.3%) provided any information on the timescale for recovery. Overall, only 1 Web site (1.6%) was identified as being “good” or “excellent” with the use of the DISCERN criteria.

LIMITATIONS: Although the internet is constantly evolving, this study captures data at a specific time point. Search results may vary depending on geographical location. This study only assessed English language websites.

CONCLUSIONS: The quality of patient information on surgery for Crohn’s disease is highly variable and generally poor. There is potential for the Internet to provide valuable information, and clinicians should identify high-quality Web sites to guide their patients.

1 Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

2 Department of Colorectal Surgery, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, United Kingdom

3 Colon and Rectal Surgery Unit, Department of General Surgery, Humanitas Research Hospital, Rozzano Milano, Milan, Italy

4 Department of Biotechnologies and Translational Medicine, University of Milano, Milan, Italy

Financial Disclosures: None reported.

Neil J. Mortensen and Antonino Spinelli contributed equally to this article.

Correspondence: Trevor M. Yeung, M.A., M.B.B.Chir., M.R.C.S., D.Phil., Rm 402, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS, UK. E-mail:

© 2015 The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons