Management of severe acute colitis (SAC) complicating inflammatory bowel disease remains a challenge despite significant advances in medical therapy. The aim of this study was to report a 20-year experience with subtotal colectomy (STC) performed for SAC.
A total of 164 consecutive patients with a mean age of 37 ± 15 years (range 16 to 86 years) underwent STC for SAC defined according to the criteria of Truelove and Witts. The decision for surgical treatment was based on clinical, biologic, radiologic, and endoscopic severity criteria both at entry and during hospitalization after failure to improve under medical treatment. A Brooke ileostomy was made to the right iliac fossa and a sigmoidostomy was made to the midline incision. All complications before discharge were recorded as in-hospital morbidity or mortality.
Colonoscopy was performed in 153 patients and endoscopic diagnosis of SAC was confirmed by pathologic examination in 84% of the cases. STC was performed on an emergency basis in 40 patients with complications and only after failure of medical treatment in the remaining 124 patients. The mortality rate was 0.6%. The overall morbidity rate was 33%; 24 patients required reoperation, including 8% undergoing reoperation during followup for small bowel obstruction. Definitive pathologic diagnosis changed in one half of the patients; the final diagnosis was Crohn's disease in 110 cases, ulcerative colitis in 35, and indeterminate colitis in 19.
Our results demonstrated the safety of STC performed in a tertiary care center for patients with SAC who presented with complications or failed to respond to intensive medical therapy.