Crohn's disease surgeries make steady advances

November 18, 2008

NEW YORK (Nov. 18, 2008) - Thousands of Americans suffering from the chronic inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn's disease are leading longer, healthier lives due to innovative new surgeries, according to experts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"Four out of five Crohn's patients will require some kind of surgery at some point during their lives, but these advanced, often minimally invasive techniques are sparing precious bowel tissue while improving quality of life," says senior author Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, Lewis Atterbury Stimson Professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

He and co-author Dr. Sharon L. Stein, assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and colorectal surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote a "state of the science" review in a recent issue of the journal Practical Gastroenterology.

As many as 500,000 people in the U.S. suffer from Crohn's disease, which triggers inflammation along the gastrointestinal tract, most typically in the lower bowel. Certain drugs can help ease symptoms, but there is no cure for this chronic illness. Some of the more severe complications of Crohn's disease include strictures (narrowing of the bowel), abscesses, perforations, fistulas (abnormal, obstructive connections between tissues), hemorrhage and even cancers. These types of complications often require surgical intervention.

"In the past, this was limited to complex, invasive surgeries that required the removal of whole sections of the affected bowel. But over the past two decades, advances in surgery have changed that paradigm," Dr. Stein notes.

Some of the innovations outlined in the review include: These and other surgical advances are giving patients valuable new options against a relentless disease, Dr. Michelassi says.

"In our work here at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, we're learning that we can do so much more than we thought we could -- reducing surgical risks, sparing bowel and helping patients have better outcomes," he says.

Dr. Stein agrees. "As we learn more, and become more comfortable with these techniques, our success emboldens us to reach for the next generation of advances. Year by year, it's making a real difference in patients' lives."
-end-
The review, "New Advances in Surgical Treatment of Crohn's Disease," can be found in the April 2008 issue of Practical Gastroenterology.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances -- from the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer to the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth, and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian, which is ranked sixth on the U.S.News & World Report list of top hospitals, also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and www.med.cornell.edu.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

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