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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Services at UPMC in Central Pa.

The specialists at UPMC in Central Pa. provide personalized surgical and nonsurgical treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Why choose UPMC for inflammatory bowel disease treatment?

At UPMC, our colon and rectal care specialists understand that IBD affects each person differently. That’s why we provide expert diagnosis and personalized treatment that addresses your specific needs and preferences.

Whether you need surgical or nonsurgical treatment, we take a team approach to your care. We work closely with other medical specialists — including family doctors, gastroenterologists, and registered dietitians — to prevent complications, improve your quality of life, and provide you with comprehensive IBD treatment.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

Our experts use leading-edge technology and techniques to diagnose and treat IBD. We offer a full range of tests and treatments, including:

Diagnostic Tests for IBD

  • Diagnostic colonoscopy. During a diagnostic colonoscopy, your doctor will check for signs of IBD, as well as take pictures and tissue samples to learn more about your condition.
  • Endoscopic procedures. Endoscopic procedures, including upper endoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and capsule endoscopy, allow your doctor to see the inside of your gastrointestinal tract and diagnose IBD.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order x-ray, CT, or MRI studies to check your gastrointestinal tract for signs of IBD.

Nonsurgical Treatment for IBD

  • Dietary planning. Your doctor may recommend following a special diet to help manage your condition. In addition to providing you with information about your dietary plan, your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian for nutritional support.
  • Medications. Your doctor will work closely with your gastroenterologist or family doctor to develop and coordinate your treatment plan, which may include medications to control inflammation, reduce symptoms, and prevent infection.

Surgical Procedures for IBD

Our board-certified colon and rectal surgeons are skilled in open, laparoscopic, and robotic surgical techniques. Whenever possible, we use sphincter-preserving techniques and other approaches that preserve natural bowel function. Our surgeons will use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible to shorten your recovery time, decrease pain, and improve outcomes.

Surgical procedures to treat inflammatory bowel disease include:

  • Colectomy. A colectomy removes all or part of your colon. Colectomies can be performed using traditional open techniques or laparoscopically using tiny instruments inserted into several small incisions in your abdomen. If necessary, your doctor may also perform an ileostomy, which reroutes stool through a stoma, or an opening in your abdomen, where it is collected in a bag. In some cases, your doctor may perform an ileal pouch anal anastomosis, or “pouch surgery,” which uses part of your small intestine to create a pouch inside your abdomen that allows waste to collect so it can be passed through your anus.
  • Intestinal strictureplasty. Crohn’s disease can sometimes cause scar tissue to develop inside your intestinal tract. Intestinal strictureplasty is a procedure to widen a section of your intestinal tract that has become narrowed by scar tissue.
  • Proctocolectomy. A proctocolectomy removes all or part of your colon and rectum. This procedure is usually performed with an ileostomy or pouch surgery.
  • Small bowel resection. During a small bowel resection, your surgeon will remove the damaged portion of your small intestine. Small bowel resection is usually used to treat complications of Crohn’s disease, such as an abscess, perforation, fistula, or bowel obstruction.

What is IBD?

IBD is a chronic or recurring condition that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

If you have ulcerative colitis, inflammation will be limited to the colon and rectum. Crohn’s disease usually affects the small intestine and colon, but inflammation can also occur in other parts of your digestive tract.

If left untreated, IBD can cause serious complications, such as open sores, tears, or infections in your intestinal lining, as well as malnutrition and bowel obstruction. It also increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

What are the symptoms of IBD?

The symptoms of IBD can vary depending on the location of the inflammation and may range from mild to severe. In many cases, people with IBD experience “flare-ups” of symptoms, followed by periods of remission. Symptoms of IBD may include:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Blood in your stool
  • Reduced appetite

Who is at risk for IBD?

Although the exact cause of IBD is yet to be understood, researchers believe that IBD could be caused by a problem with your immune system. Family history may also put you at a higher risk of developing the disease.

How can I prevent IBD?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent IBD. However, if you’ve already been diagnosed with IBD, avoiding IBD “triggers” may help you prevent flare-ups and manage your condition. You should pay attention to which foods and drinks seem to make your symptoms worse so you can avoid them in the future. You should also aim to minimize stress and get regular exercise.

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