Two hundred and ten patients with Crohn's disease (CD) were identified in an epidemiological survey of inflammatory bowel disease in the Leiden Health Care Region of the Netherlands. The survey included all patients with CD seen between 1979-1983. The duration of disease ranged from less than one year to 48 years. Of the 210 patients with CD, 118 (56%) underwent surgical resection. Sixty one had an ileocaecal resection, 14 a proctocolectomy, in seven cases as a two stage procedure; 12 a segmental colectomy with end-to-end anastomosis and eight a subtotal colectomy with ileostomy. Twenty-one of these 118 patients (18%) had recurrences requiring reoperation; in 11 because of recurrence at the anastomotic site. Life table analysis showed that after 10 years 17% of patients required further resection for recurrence and 8% for relapse. By 20 years the rate of recurrence had risen to 56%. Patients over the age of 30 at first resection were at 1.5 fold greater risk of requiring further surgery than younger patients. The initial site of disease played no role in recurrence and there was no evidence that preoperative disease duration, delay in diagnosis, or late surgery had any effect on recurrence rates. This is one of the few community based studies to measure recurrence and relapse. A balanced appraisal is that surgery is not permanently curative, but the need for further resection may be lower than previously suggested.
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