Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a clinical entity that predominantly affects young adults yet large series of middle age or elderly patients with UC are infrequently reported. The aim of this study is to identify patterns of disease, indications for operation, surgical treatment, and outcome of patients more than 50 years of age who required surgery for UC in Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Medical Centers.
A population-based study on all patients in 159 hospitals of the DVA from 1997 to 2001 was carried out. Data were compiled from several national computerized VA data sets. Supplementary information including demographic information, discharge summaries, operative reports and pathology reports were obtained from local medical records. Patient variables were entered into a computerized database and analyzed using the Pearson chi-square and Fisher's exact tests. Statistical significance is designated as P < 0.05.
One hundred fifty-eight patients were evaluable. The mean age was 59 years (range 51-81); 99% were male. The mean duration of UC was 23 years (range 2 to 50). One hundred of the 158 patients had proctocolitis; 58 had either left-sided colitis or proctosigmoiditis. The mean dose of prednisone prior to surgery was 20 mg; the mean duration of steroid use was 8 years. The indications for elective surgery were intractability (59%), mass or stricture (27%), and dysplasia (14%). Twenty of the 158 patients (12%) were operated on emergently for either toxic colitis, perforation, or hemorrhage. One hundred three of the 158 underwent proctocolectomy and permanent ileostomy, 55 underwent a restorative proctocolectomy, and underwent a segmental colectomy. Twenty of the 158 patients were found to have dysplasia in their colectomy specimens; an additional 10 (7%) were found to have invasive cancer. Surgical morbidity was 22%. Overall mortality was 4% (7 of 158); all but 1 death occurred after emergent surgery. Mean hospitalization was 36 days (range 2 to 297).
Restorative proctocolectomy was performed in 36% of veterans more than 50 years of age requiring surgery for UC. The majority required surgery for intractable symptoms. Dysplasia and invasive cancer was found in 18% of patients. Mortality after surgery for acute surgical emergencies remains high.
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