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Ulcerative Colitis: When Surgery Is Needed

Topic Overview

Surgery is likely to be needed for ulcerative colitis when:

  • Medicines and nutritional therapy have failed to manage severe symptoms.
  • Toxic megacolon does not respond to medical treatment within 4 days (or sooner in some cases).
  • Holes develop in the large intestine (perforation).
  • You have colon cancer, a significantly increased risk of cancer (detected by biopsies), or a narrowing in the intestine that cannot be distinguished from cancer, even if you do not have symptoms of active disease.
  • Severe, disabling complications occur outside the colon. But many complications do not respond to surgery.
  • Severe bleeding requires ongoing blood transfusions.
  • Slow growth or other serious complications occur in children.

People may choose to have surgery to improve their quality of life, cure ulcerative colitis, or prevent the possibility of colon cancer.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised October 8, 2012

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