Crohn's disease is chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract and has been recognized as a significant disease in children and adolescents. It’s a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
What is Pediatric Crohn's Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involving segments of the digestive system. In a child with Crohn's disease, the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the digestive tract. The tissue becomes swollen and inflamed, causing the intestine walls to thicken.
The digestive system goes from the mouth to the anus, and Crohn's disease can affect any part of it, including the mouth, esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach), stomach, and rectum, as well as both the small intestine and large intestine. Crohn's disease most frequently occurs at the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine.
Children and young adults are most commonly diagnosed with Crohn's disease between the ages of 15 and 25; however, it can occur at any age.
What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Crohn's Disease?
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen
- Lack of appetite
- Needing to pass stool even when bowels are empty
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
Symptoms during a flare-up may include:
How is Pediatric Crohn's Disease diagnosed?
- Blood work
- Stool studies
- X-ray: A single-contrast upper GI radiologic series
- Magnetic resonance enterography (MRE), MRI, abdominal ultrasonography
- Endoscopy, including a colonoscopy with biopsy, upper endoscopy, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and video capsule endoscopy
Medical treatment aims to control the inflammatory progress of the disease, while minimizing any potential side effects caused by medications. Goals are to allow normal physical development and to provide as near a normal lifestyle as possible for the patient.
What are the causes of Pediatric Crohn's Disease?
Genetics and environmental factors can all have a role in the diagnosis of Crohn's disease. However, the exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unproven but it is understood to be a disorder of the immune system. Viral or bacterial agents are suspected as being possible triggers behind the response.
How is Pediatric Crohn's Disease treated?
- Biologic agents
- Antibiotic therapy
- Corticosteroid therapy
- Oral immunomodulators
- Dietary therapy
Patients might require surgery if they fail to respond to medical treatment or do not thrive. Surgery is effective, but not curative, and flare ups of the disease will likely recur.
Many Crohn’s disease patients need to have only portions of their colon and small intestine removed. Strictureplasty is a technique which lets a surgeon widen a portion of the bowel that has become narrow due to the damage and scarring caused by Crohn’s disease. Our surgeons also offer surgical treatment for complications of Crohn’s disease, such as abscesses and fistulas.
Laparoscopic surgery can be performed in many cases, with more minimally invasive procedures being performed every year. At Children’s Health, the most advanced surgical techniques, such as minimally invasive surgery, are used to treat this disorder. Such techniques result in less pain and scarring for your child.