Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Mount Sinai has a long history of combining leading-edge research and world-class surgical experience in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Dr. Burrill B. Crohn first described Crohn’s disease here at Mount Sinai in 1932, and our colon and rectal surgeons have remained leaders in the treatment of these disorders. Today, Mount Sinai Health System manages one of the busiest IBD programs in the United States, performing nearly 2,000 surgeries per year to treat these chronic conditions. By taking a multidisciplinary approach that involves collaboration with gastroenterologists and other specialists, we ensure our patients are given every available treatment option.

In addition, our colon and rectal surgeons are involved in leading-edge research with participation in large, multi-center clinical trials in order to develop new and better therapies for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. We have also created the Adrian J. Greenstein IBD Database, which collects and synthesizes data from the thousands of surgical IBD cases seen annually at Mount Sinai, so we may create improved treatment options for our patients.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, sometimes extending deep into the layers of bowel tissue. This can result in abdominal discomfort, ulcers, bleeding, diarrhea, and even malnourishment.

Crohn's Disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications. There is no known cure for Crohn's disease, but there are therapies, including surgery, that can greatly reduce the symptoms and in some cases, lead to long-term remission. When symptoms of Crohn’s disease are not responding to medication, your physician may recommend surgery, especially if there are complications, such as bleeding, fistulas, infections, or narrowing of the bowel.

Surgery for Crohn’s Disease

The colon and rectal surgeons at Mount Sinai have a long history in the surgical treatment of Crohn’s disease, which was discovered at Mount Sinai in 1932. Your surgeon may recommend removing the damaged part of the intestine and connecting the two healthy ends of the bowel. Surgery may also be used to close fistulas, remove scar tissue or drain abscesses. If a segment of the intestine has become too narrow, your surgeon may recommend a procedure that widens the affected area.

While surgery will not cure Crohn’s disease, it often can improve quality of life for patients.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a severe form of IBD, which causes inflammation of the large intestine (colon). It is characterized mainly by abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and sometimes can lead to life-threatening complications. It usually affects only the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum, and occurs only through continuous stretches of your colon.

Although there is no known medical cure for ulcerative colitis, there are therapies, including surgery, that are available, many of which may dramatically reduce symptoms and even bring about long-term remission.

Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis

Your doctor may recommend surgery to treat ulcerative colitis, especially if factors develop such as symptoms that don’t respond to medical care, serious complications, drug side effects, or cancerous or precancerous changes in the colon. Based on each individual patient’s needs, the surgeons at Mount Sinai may choose either open surgery or the most advanced minimally invasive techniques to treat ulcerative colitis.

Minimally invasive surgery generally uses small "keyhole" incisions, as opposed to a large open incision. The surgeon inserts surgical instruments including a tiny camera through ports in these incisions, and performs the procedure using images sent from the camera to a computer monitor. Minimally invasive procedures mean shorter hospital stays, less pain, and a faster recovery time for patients.

Surgery for ulcerative colitis can usually be performed to restore intestinal function to near normal. Although most surgeons at other centers usually require at least a temporary ileostomy (a surgical procedure in which an opening is created in the ileum portion of the small intestine, allowing the stool to exit the body into an appliance) as part of the surgery, at Mount Sinai, our surgeons frequently perform the procedure without any need for an ileostomy.