Natural course of Crohn's disease after ileocolic resection: endoscopically visualised ileal ulcers preceding symptoms.
Forty two Crohn's disease patients were followed up after ileocolic resection with regard to symptoms and endoscopic appearance of the ileocolic anastomosis. Twenty eight patients resected because of colonic neoplasm served as controls. In all the Crohn's disease patients the ileal resection margin was disease free macroscopically at operation. In addition, intraoperative ileoscopy was performed in 13 and no sign of residual inflammation in the neoterminal ileum was seen. Endoscopy soon after surgery often showed preanastomotic ileal ulceration before symptoms appeared, whereas no anastomotic lesions were observed in the controls. Thus, 22 of 30 Crohn's disease patients examined had ulceration of the anastomotic area after three months, but only 10 had developed symptoms indicating relapse (73 v 33%). Corresponding figures in the 30 patients examined after one year were 93 v 37%, and in 14 patients after three years they were 100 and 86% respectively. The inflammatory lesions in all cases were preanastomotic, in the neoterminal ileum, and showed time related progression from aphthae to larger ulcers and stricture. The study suggests that endoscopically observed inflammatory lesions that appear soon after ileocolic resection for Crohn's disease signify new inflammation and not residual, persistent disease or incomplete anastomotic healing. The data further suggest that despite clinical remission after apparently radical intestinal resection, the bowel is permanently inflamed in Crohn's disease.