PURPOSE: The role of laparoscopic surgery in patients with Crohn's disease remains to be defined, although increasingly difficult cases are being treated using minimally invasive techniques. We examined technical feasibility in 20 patients with Crohn's disease associated with fistulas. METHODS: Laparoscopic surgery was attempted in 37 patients with stricturing ileal disease or ileocolonic Crohn's disease from 1994 to 2000 after failure of strict nutritional therapy. Twenty of these patients with a total of 31 intestinal fistulas (14 ileoileal, 6 ileocolonic, 5 ileorectal, 2 ileovesical, 2 ileocutaneous, 1 gastrocolic, and 1 ileoduodenal) underwent 25 operations. Fistulas were divided intracorporeally, except for ileoileal fistulas. Fifteen patients underwent ileocecal resection; six underwent strictureplasty; six underwent partial resection of the small intestine; three underwent segmental colonic resection; and one underwent resection of anastomotic recurrence. Median follow-up was 48 (range, 5-77) months. RESULTS: Oral intake was started a median of 1 (range, 1-9) day after operation, and patients were discharged a median of 8 (range, 6-21) days after surgery. Four complications were observed in 25 operations (16 percent), including 1 intestinal obstruction/ileus, 2 wound infections, and 1 intra-abdominal abscess. There were no intraoperative or postoperative deaths. Four of the 5 operations were converted to open surgery (16 percent). Three of the 5 patients (60 percent) who required reoperation for anastomotic recurrence underwent repeated laparoscopic surgery using the same small incision. CONCLUSION: Laparoscopic treatment for Crohn's disease complicated by fistulas is feasible without high complication or conversion rates. Recurrent disease requiring reoperation can also be successfully treated using laparoscopic methods.
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