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Presenting features of inflammatory bowel disease in Great Britain and Ireland
  1. A Sawczenko,
  2. B K Sandhu
  1. Department of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Bristol Children’s Hospital, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor B K Sandhu
    Department of Gastroenterology, Bristol Children’s Hospital, Upper Maudlin Street, Bristol BS2 8BJ, UK;


Background: Reports from individual referral centres suggest that a significant proportion of children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) present after prolonged delays and with impaired growth.

Aims: To prospectively document the presenting features, delay in presentation, disease localisation, and growth in newly diagnosed cases of IBD.

Methods: For 13 months, between June 1998 and June 1999, 3247 paediatricians, adult gastroenterologists, and surgeons across the UK and Ireland were prospectively surveyed each month and asked to report every newly diagnosed case of childhood IBD.

Results: A total of 739 new IBD cases aged less than 16 years were identified. Only one quarter of Crohn’s disease (CD) cases presented with the “classic triad” of diarrhoea, weight loss, and abdominal pain; nearly half did not report diarrhoea. The median delay from onset of symptoms to diagnosis was 5 months (mean 11 months), with one fifth having symptoms of more than one year. Delays were most common in CD and in younger children. Short stature was noted only in those with CD and not with ulcerative colitis. One fifth of CD cases had disease activity in the jejunum and this group had significantly reduced stature. Ileo-colonic involvement was documented in most CD cases, with only a small minority having isolated ileal or isolated colonic disease. Pan-colitis was reported in most UC cases, with very few having only an isolated proctitis.

Conclusions: Many children are diagnosed after prolonged delays and have growth failure. Improved knowledge of the presenting features of IBD, and earlier investigation of suspected cases, may help reduce the delays noted.

  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • epidemiology
  • disease distribution
  • symptoms
  • growth impairment
  • BPSU, British Paediatric Surveillance Unit
  • BSGRU, British Society of Gastroenterology Research Unit
  • CD, Crohn’s disease
  • CI, confidence interval
  • GP, general practitioner
  • IBD, inflammatory bowel disease
  • IC, indeterminate colitis
  • OGD, oesophagoduodenoscopy
  • PRIBD, Paediatric Register of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • RR, relative risk
  • UC, ulcerative colitis
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