Crohn’s Disease: How To Tell If It’s Time For Surgery

Having to undergo surgery is never anyone’s first choice. In fact, most people will do everything possible in order to avoid having a surgery. Unfortunately for patients with Crohn’s disease, surgery is an almost inevitable part of dealing with the condition.

Although surgery is always a last-resort treatment, statistically, up to 75% of people with Crohn’s Disease will have to undergo surgery at some point in their life. Surgery usually happens as a result of medical complications caused by the disease or because of the medications used to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

If you or someone you know suffers from Crohn’s Disease, it is important to be able to recognize the factors that may lead to needing surgery, as well as the signs and symptoms indicating a medical emergency that may require a surgery.

Oftentimes, there are four factors that exacerbate the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and often lead to surgery:

  1. The medications being used to treat the symptoms are no longer effective.

  2. The side effects of the medications are negative and/or unbearable.

  3. The presence of cancerous indications in the colon.

  4. The disease has created other complications deemed medical emergencies.

Although people who suffer from Crohn’s Disease have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, the most common factors that lead to surgery usually have to do with medications failing to treat the symptoms or causing severe side effects, and the complications caused by the disease itself. Some common complications of Crohn’s Disease, along with their accompanying, symptoms are as follows:

  • Abscesses: These pockets of pus are often caused by infections and can develop in the abdomen, pelvis, or around the anal area.

    • Symptoms include: severe pain in the abdomen, painful bowel movements, discharge of pus from the anus, fever, or a lump at the edge of the anus that is swollen, red, and tender.

  • Bowel Perforations: chronic bowel inflammation often weaken the bowel walls, causing perforations, or holes.

    • Symptoms include: severe abdominal pain intensified by movement, nausea, vomiting, fever and/or chills.

  • Fistulas: When inflammation there is inflammation in the bowels, sometimes ulcers are caused. These ulcers spread over the bladder walls and form tunnels, or connections between two cavities, such as the rectum and the bladder.

    • Symptoms include: May cause drainage of mucus or stool from the area around the anus.

  • Intestinal Blockage/Obstructions: This occurs when chronic inflammation leads to the thickening of the bowels in the digestive tract and creates scar tissue. This causes the bowels to narrow (called a strictures), which leads to intestinal blockage.

    • Symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, and/or constipation.

  • Toxic Megacolon: This condition occurs when the colon, or the large intestine gets stretched out, dilated and/or bloated, causing toxins to spread through the blood.

    • Symptoms include: abdominal pain, bloating of the abdomen (distention), abdominal tenderness, fever, rapid heart rate, shock, bloody or severe diarrhea, and/or painful bowel movements.

  • Excessive Bleeding In The Intestines: Although this is a rare complication caused by Crohn’s Disease, surgery is likely if bleeding cannot be stopped by any other means.

    • Symptoms include: bloody or tarry stool, bright red blood in vomit, abdominal cramps, dizziness or fainting, feeling tired, paleness, and/or shortness of breath.

If you or someone you know are seeing very severe symptoms due to Crohn’s disease (such as high fever, persistent vomiting, evidence of obstruction or abscesses, and severe weight loss) it is likely that one or more of the above complications are taking place. If so, immediate care may be required, along with surgery.

Unsure about the severity of your symptoms or whether it is time for a surgery? Do not hesitate, book an appointment with one of your physician's today.