Papers And Originals

Surgical Treatment of Severe Attacks of Ulcerative Colitis, with Special Reference to the Advantages of Early Operation

Br Med J 1970; 4 doi: (Published 19 December 1970) Cite this as: Br Med J 1970;4:703
  1. J. C. Goligher,
  2. D. C. Hoffman,
  3. F. T. de Dombal


    The management and outcome of 258 severe attacks of ulcerative colitis from 1952 to 1969 has been reviewed. If remission did not occur during an initial course of intensive medical treatment, including administration of corticosteroids, operation (generally ileostomy with proctocolectomy or subtotal colectomy) was performed. This took place some 12 to 17 days after admission as a rule during the years 1952-63, but usually within five to seven days from 1964 to 1969.

    Roughly half the attacks underwent spontaneous remission during the two periods, but the medical mortality was 4·8% in the former and 0·7% in the latter, the operative mortality 20·0 and 7·0%, and the overall mortality 11·3 and 4.5% respectively. The lowering of the mortality was particularly striking in severe first attacks and in severe attacks in patients over 60 years of age.

    Perforation of the colon was found in 21 cases, or nearly 20% of 112 patients coming to operation during attacks, being commoner in the first period (32·5%) than in the second (11·1%). The immediate mortality of all such operations was 11·6%; in cases with perforation it was 28·6%.

    Acute colonic dilatation was observed in 28 cases. All but one were treated by emergency colectomy, at which the colon was noted to be perforated in 11. The mortality of these operations was 18·5%.

    Follow-up of the 140 patients who survived without coming to operation during their attacks shows that 52 (37·1%) subsequently underwent surgical treatment either during further attacks or electively.

    Though all 258 attacks were thought at the time to be due to ordinary ulcerative colitis, subsequent pathological examination of operative specimens derived from 98 patients who came to urgent or subsequent operation during the 1964-9 period revealed that the lesion in the large bowel was Crohn's disease in 17 instances.