Digestive Diseases - Collaborative Approach to Treating Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

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Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are known as inflammatory bowel diseases and are often difficult to diagnose. Bouts of abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea and intestinal bleeding could be due to either condition. In fact, the two are often mistaken for each other because of significant overlapping features. Cleveland Clinic Florida’s physicians use their expertise and technologically advanced diagnostic tools to make the right call.

At Cleveland Clinic Florida, gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons work as a team in the Department of Digestive Diseases to diagnose and identify the best way to manage patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

“Colorectal surgeons use a collaborative team approach with other specialties to provide high-quality patient care,” said Steven D. Wexner, MD, Chairman of Colorectal Surgery. “The department is world-renowned in achieving excellent outcomes and use of innovative and state-of-the-art treatments for colorectal conditions.”

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease cause inflammation of the tissues that line the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease may be found anywhere along the tract, from the mouth to the anus. Typically, it penetrates into the deep layers of the lining. Ulcerative colitis is usually found only on the inner most layer of the tissues in the lining of the colon or large intestine.

Physicians rely on a battery of diagnostic tests and procedures. Two newer blood tests indicate anemia or signs of infection by identifying certain antibodies in the blood. A barium enema gives doctors an X-ray view of the lower portion of the digestive tract.

In addition, imaging procedures such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy give doctors a real-time view of the digestive tract. During these procedures, doctors can also take tissue samples for analysis. For instance, pathologists look for granulomas, which are clusters of inflamed cells found in Crohn’s disease but not in ulcerative colitis.

In the early stages of either disease, medication is the most common treatment. That allows the inflamed tissues to heal. With medical treatments, the diseases can go into remission, in some cases for decades.

In many cases, surgery becomes necessary. The J-pouch procedure has been performed at Cleveland Clinic Florida since its inception in 1988 and prior to that time, had been performed at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio since 1983. During this procedure, the colon and rectum are removed and surgeons form a “J” shaped pouch out of an individual’s own small bowel. This replaces the colon and allows a patient to pass stool through the usual route, thus eliminating the need for a colostomy bag. The J-pouch procedure can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.

To make an appointment, with a physician in the Department of Digestive Diseases, click here or call toll-free 800.639.DOCTOR.