Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an inflammation of the intestine that is immune-mediated. It’s not known exactly what causes this disease, but most medical researchers believe it’s a combination of genetics, the presence of bacteria, and possible environmental causes.
What Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease May Require Pediatric Surgery?
IBD can be categorized into three specific diagnoses, all of which may present different symptoms and require different treatment measures: Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC), and IBD unspecified (IBDU).
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the intestines. It most commonly causes problems in the small bowel, but it can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that one-fifth of patients will require surgery for Crohn’s disease within their lifetime and 14% will need surgery in the first decade.
GI surgery may be an option for your child when nutritional changes and medications aren’t effective at providing symptom relief or preventing complications. For children who have serious damage in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract due to chronic inflammation, surgery may be the best treatment option.
Ulcerative colitis is another chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation along the digestive tract, most commonly in the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Unlike with Crohn’s disease, the small intestine is unaffected. Children’s symptoms are usually managed with medication.
If a child doesn’t respond well to medication, surgery may be the best route. A surgical procedure can be done to remove the colon and connect a small portion of the small intestine to a remaining cuff of the colon at the anus. This is a complex surgery that may require several operations.
This diagnosis is what doctors give to children when clinical and pathological findings do not indicate they have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, but do have similar symptoms. It’s possible that their symptoms can be managed with medication and nutritional adjustments, and surgical intervention may not be required for a child with IBDU.
Risks of Pediatric Surgery for IBD
If a child’s surgery requires that a section of the intestine be removed and reattached, there is always a small risk of leakage and scarring. When scar tissue forms, it may create a blockage in the intestine, which would require additional treatment.
The ileoanal pouch pull-through procedure used to treat UC can take a toll on children. They’ll require time to acclimate to a new bowel and intestine configuration. This is likely to result in a temporary increase in bowel movements.
There may also be minor post-surgery issues related to wound healing, but these can usually be treated with medication.
All of these issues can be quickly addressed by the dedicated surgeons and pediatric care teams at Austin Pediatric Surgery. Despite these small risks and challenges, most pediatric patients still achieve improved quality of life.
How to Prepare Your Child for IBD Surgery
It’s common for children to feel uneasy about an upcoming procedure, so it’s important to help them get comfortable with the idea and prepare them for what to expect. We recommend explaining the procedure in a simple, age-appropriate way.
Before beginning to fast, help your child make healthy eating choices leading up to the operation. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein.
Your surgeon may prescribe laxatives prior to surgery, so you may need to make schedule adjustments in order to accommodate your child’s needs. It’s important to follow the surgeon’s instructions as closely as possible because they will be tailored to your child’s needs.
What to Expect During Recovery
You should make every effort to follow the recovery instructions provided by the surgeon. If your child develops a fever, bleeding, redness, constipation, or persistent nausea or vomiting, contact our office right away.
Pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease should be consistently monitored by a doctor. Studies show that 30% of patients can present symptoms again within three years and 60% can experience symptoms again within ten years. Because of this, it’s very important that children see their pediatrician or GI specialist regularly and that their care is transferred to an adult specialist as they get older.
Trust Austin Pediatric Surgery for Your Child’s Surgery
When it comes to IBD, our team at Austin Pediatric Surgery is committed to improving children’s symptoms and helping them get back to their normal lives. You can trust us to offer your child the most up-to-date medical treatments and partner with you and your child’s gastroenterologist every step of the way. If you have any questions about your child’s IBD surgical needs, please contact our pediatric surgery center.