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Crohn’s disease surgery

Abdominal surgery for Crohn’s disease that has not responded to medical treatments

Crohn's disease
Crohn's disease is a chronic, lifelong condition that causes inflammation in your digestive system. The disease most often affects the end part of your small bowel (small intestine), called the terminal ileum. However, it can affect any part of your digestive system.

Crohn's disease causes your bowel wall to thicken, which can block food from passing through. The affected area of your bowel can also fail to absorb nutrients from your food.

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach aches and cramps
  • Blood in your poo
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Crohn's disease is one of the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other is ulcerative colitis. Both cause chronic digestive symptoms and can have a significant impact on your quality of life. There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but there are a variety of treatments available to help manage and reduce your symptoms.

If you are living with Crohn's disease, or suspect you may inflammatory bowel disease, it's important to speak to a specialist. We have a network of experienced consultants who can help to diagnose and treat IBD and Crohn's, helping you to take control of your symptoms. Call or book online to start your journey to better health today.

How do I know if I have Crohn's disease?

If you have been experiencing abdominal discomfort (regardless of your age), it's best to visit your doctor in case it's Crohn's disease or another condition that affects the bowel.

Some of the most common reasons people with Crohn's disease choose to have surgery include:

If medications don't help you

If your symptoms can't be controlled using medicine, your consultant may suggest surgery.

Strictures, abscesses or fistulas

These are complications of Crohn's disease that can often be treated with medicines or minor procedures, but in other instances will need to be addressed surgically.

Severe complications

Severe complications of Crohn's disease are another common reason people choose to have surgery. These can include:

  • Bleeding or a tear in your gut
  • A blockage in your digestive system that could cause further problems
  • A condition called toxic megacolon, which is severe inflammation and enlargement of the colon

To reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer

Crohn's disease is not the same as bowel cancer however there is an increased risk that you will develop bowel cancer if you have had Crohn's in your large bowel (large intestine) for over 10 years. If precancerous cells are found, you may need surgery.

Rest assured that our consultant specialists will only recommend surgery if they feel it would be beneficial for you. We will always try non-invasive treatment for Crohn's disease such as medications first.

Surgery is not always offered as a last resort, and some people might be offered it earlier in their treatment journey. In this instance it will be expected that surgery will provide a significant reduction in symptoms and side effects that makes surgery really worthwhile, however the choice will be up to you.

Still, many people who have Crohn's disease will eventually need surgery. This might be because it will significantly improve your quality of life, or in some cases it may be that you have medical complications as a result of Crohn's that mean not having surgery poses a higher risk.

Whatever your circumstances, your consultant is there to guide you through, helping you make any necessary choices and explaining every step of the process along the way.

What are the benefits of abdominal surgery for Crohn's disease?

For some people, non-surgical treatments simply can't manage the symptoms of Crohn's disease enough, and the condition affects their quality of life so badly that they need to have surgery.

The primary benefits of Crohn's disease surgery are that it can:

  • Reduce difficult symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Alleviate complications of Crohn's
  • Reduce or remove your reliance on medications
  • Significantly improve your quality of life

Abdominal surgery for Crohn's disease typically involves one or more of the below elements. Most of these use keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) though in some instances you will have open surgery.

Bowel resection

Bowel resection means removing part of your bowel. This is one of the most common types of surgery for Crohn's disease. A damaged section of your colon is removed and the two healthy sections either side are joined together in what's called an anastomosis. Colectomy is one common type of bowel resection.

Strictureplasty

An operation to repair strictures in the small intestine without having to remove any of your bowel. Strictures happen when scarring in your bowel causes a narrowing, and they can lead to blockages so often need to be treated.

Colostomy or ileostomy

These are two approaches to creating a stoma, which is an opening in your tummy through which a section of your bowel is brought so that its contents can be emptied straight into a bag. Both colostomy and ileostomy can be temporary or permanent.

How many nights you will stay in hospital will depend on the particulars of your surgery. Most people go home between three and 10 days after their operation, and your consultant will give you a personalised estimate ahead of time.

It may take up to three months for you to feel back to normal after surgery, though you'll start to feel better much sooner than this. Most people find their quality of life is significantly improved once the diseased part of their bowel has been removed.

To boost your recovery, eat healthily, get lots of rest and stay as active as you can. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible, and your care team will give you detailed advice on when it's safe to exercise and what activities are best for you.

As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications with this procedure, which your consultant surgeon will discuss with you prior the operation. Potential complications include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Damage to surrounding tissues or organs
  • Unsightly scarring of your skin
  • Developing a hernia in the scar
  • Blood clot in your leg
  • Blood clot in your lung
  • Chest infection
  • Difficulty passing urine

Your consultant will be able to explain your personal risk levels in detail and should put your mind at rest about any worries you are having.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant to learn more about surgery for Crohn’s disease, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in May 2023. Next review due May 2026.

  1. Surgery for Crohn’s disease, Crohn’s & Colitis UK
  2. Surgery for Crohn’s disease, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
  3. Crohn’s disease, NHS

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