Children's Hospital Colorado

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is inflammatory bowel disease? 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) that can affect any part of the tract from the mouth to the anus. In this disease the lining of the intestines become inflamed and develops tiny open sores called ulcers.

The combination of inflammation and ulceration can cause abdominal discomfort and bloody diarrhea. 

IBD is divided into 3 separate diseases: Crohn’s Disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC) and IBD undetermined (IBDU) or indeterminate colitis (IC).

While CD, UC, and IBDU are types of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), they should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the colon. Chronic intestinal inflammation is not part of IBS.

What causes inflammatory bowel disease?

IBD is the result of an abnormal response by the body's immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria and other materials in the intestine as foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines to fight the “foreign invaders” but instead they produce chronic inflammation and ulcers.

What are the signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases?

Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:

  • Persistent diarrhea 
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation

General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss or poor weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

People suffering from IBD often experience loss of appetite and may lose weight as a result. A feeling of low energy and fatigue is also common. Among younger children, IBD may delay growth and development.

What tests are used to diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases?

The diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease depends on information from several different types of tests.  Normally IBD is diagnosed by a combination of:

  • Medical history and physical exam 
  • Blood tests
  • Upper intestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy with biopsies
  • MRI
  • CT Scan 

How do doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

The doctors at Children’s Colorado make a diagnosis by assessing a combination of information including history and physical exam, blood tests, upper intestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy with biopsies and some form of radiologic evaluation such as MRI or CT scan.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

IBD is treated in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the disease. In general the goal is to decrease inflammation. These therapies could include medication by mouth or injection or, ultimately, surgery to remove the colon.

At Children’s Hospital Colorado we try to use the most effective methods with the fewest side effects. We use oral as well as injected anti-inflammatory medications to bring the disease under control.  Because inflammatory bowel disease is a lifelong or chronic disease, frequently children will take these medications throughout their lives. If the disease remains persistent we will enlist the assistance of our pediatric surgeons for removal of the colon as a curative procedure

In addition to more traditional approaches to the treatment of ulcerative colitis we also participate in clinical trials to evaluate new treatments and perform research to help define new therapies for the treatment of the inflammatory bowel diseases.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s IBD?

The Children’s Colorado Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Center at the Digestive Health Institute is the only center in the region to provide comprehensive pediatric-specific multidisciplinary care in a team comprised of board certified pediatric gastroenterology physicians, advance practice nurses, a nurse coordinator, social worker, nutritionist, pediatric radiologist, pediatric surgeons, a psychologist and child life specialists. The center provides a platform for a seamless continuum of care for children with IBD. Our focus on nutrition and its role in pediatric IBD stands out as an example for other practices in the treatment of IBD.

With a combined 50 years of experience caring for patients with IBD, our physicians treat children with IBD and are leaders in research, education and improving quality of care. Our program participates in the Improve Care Now network for collaborative work in continuous quality improvement, innovation and discovery to improve the health and well being of children and adolescents with IBD. Within this international consortium our center performs in the top for remission rates, nutrition and growth status. 

Our physicians and support staff aim to provide compassionate, patient centered care including a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis and a complete care plan in order to provide children with IBD the opportunity to flourish without having to focus on the condition. We also aim to provide the skills and understanding of their disease to make the transition to adulthood and adult medical care as simple as possible for our patients.

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