Who Put the Crohn in Crohn’s Disease

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

A Bit of history.  Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Who Put The “Crohn” in Crohn’s Disease. What Is Crohn’s DiseaseCrohn’s disease, an inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, was described in the early part of the 20th century and is a member of a group of gastrointestinal illnesses known as inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD.  In the 1930’s several physicians provided a more complete description of the diseases and reported 14 cases of an entity that attacked the end of the small intestine, the ileum, and the beginning of the large intestine, or colon. The disease was termed regional ileitis, to denote the anatomic location of the disease in a region of small and large intestine. Because the paper’s authors were listed in alphabetical order, the name of Burrill Crohn, a New York gastroenterologist, was forever attached to the name of the disease, Crohn’s Disease, an illness that begins commonly in patients between 15 and 30 years old.  It is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the immune system actually attacks its own body

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Colon and rectal surgeons, also known as proctologists or coloproctologists, quickly began to study Crohn’s disease (as well as the other prominent member of the inflammatory bowel disease family, ulcerative colitis).  Patients displayed a wide range of symptoms ranging from abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool, flatulaence and fatigue, to strictures, or a narrowing of the intestine, causing difficulty moving food through the gastrointestinal system.

Not uncommonly, fistulas, or abnormal connections between different parts of the intestine, or between the intestine and the skin, develop.  Ulcers may develop in any part of the GI tract, or around the anus.  Other parts of the body may be affected as well.  Childhood growth may be delayed.  Obviously, Crohn’s is a debilitating problem.

Medicine Can Help.

Tremendous strides have been made in the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, especially at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Blood tests have been developed which may help the surgeon confirm a diagnosis.  Treatments involving combinations of anti-inflammatory steroids, antibiotics, anti cancer agents and biologic agents, all play a role in the treatment program.

Surgery Can Help.

When medical treatments fail, or when emergencies arise, surgery may be necessary. Surgery for Crohn’s disease is not curative, but can relieve the blockage caused by strictures, remove fistulas, treat abscesses (collections of pus around the intestine), or help to resolve the disease when medical measures fail.  The treatment is guided by a team, and the operations are performed by the surgical team.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates.

The board certified and experienced surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates, are an integral part of the inflammatory bowel disease team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  With many years of experience, the surgeons regularly consult with patients and offer surgical treatment when necessary.  As always, experience is important. You may contact one of the surgeons at (310)273-2310.  Help and experience are available.

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