Objective: To determine whether referral patterns for surgical treatment among patients with chronic ulcerative colitis have changed in recent years, especially in view of the introduction of a new operation, the ileal pouch- anal anastomosis (IPAA). Material and Methods: Between January 1976 and December 1986, 981 patients underwent proctocolectomy at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Brooke ileostomy (N = 300), colectomy with ileorectal anastomosis (N = 33), proctocolectomy with Kock pouch (N = 180), or ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) (N = 468) was performed. The indications for surgical intervention were categorized as emergent or elective, the latter including intractability, cancer, and cancer prophylaxis. For analysis, the duration from diagnosis of disease to operation, indications for surgical treatment, and types of operation were subdivided into pre-IPAA era (before 1981) and post-IPAA era (from 1981 onward) for the entire group and for distant versus local patients. Results: More continence-preserving operations were done in 1981 and thereafter (76%) than before 1981 (46%). In the later segment of the study period in comparison with before 1981, fewer operations were done for emergent reasons (4% versus 8%) and a greater percentage of operations were done for elective indications, especially intractability (74% versus 61%). With the advent of IPAA in 1981, patients underwent operation sooner after the diagnosis was made (7.4 years versus 8.6 years before 1981). A smaller proportion of patients underwent operation for cancer prophylaxis during 1981 through 1986 (19%), however, than before 1981 (28%). Conclusion: Referral patterns for surgical treatment of patients with ulcerative colitis have changed in recent years - patients are being referred for operation sooner, before complications develop that necessitate emergent procedures. Although the changed referral pattern may be due to the availability of IPAA, other factors may also have a role.
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