Blog | Monday, June 1, 2009

News from Digestive Disease Week: Crohn's disease

CHICAGO--IBD radiation risk: Are your patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn's disease getting too much radiation exposure?

Patients with Crohn's--who often have complications that require radiologic tests sometimes starting at a young age--were exposed to twice as much radiation as patients with UC, according to the results of a study of 500 patients with Crohn's and UC presented here today.

Between 66% and 75% of the radiation came from CT scans, which produce more radiation than X-rays or MRIs, but do a better job diagnosing complications associated with irritable bowel disease, according to the study's lead researcher Karen Kroeker, MD, fellow with the division of gastroenterology at the University of Alberta.

She said the problem could be addressed by finding new diagnostic tools such as intestinal ultrasound that could eventually replace CT scans.

Meanwhile, she suggested doctors keep closer tabs on what their patients are experiencing. "Physicians need to be aware of how many CT scans their patients have been exposed to so that they can determine the risk of additional CT scans," she said.

The environment and Crohn's: Pollution, changes in diet, or smoking habits could be responsible for the 48.5% increase in Crohn's disease in patients under age 19, according to another study released today.

Investigators tracked nearly 6 million patients in northern France between 1988 and 2005. While the incidence of Crohn's increased 20.7% overall, that rate had stabilized after 10 years. Not so for people under age 19; that rate had a linear and dramatic increase.

Future studies should look at why Crohn's disproportionately affects young people, said Guillaume Savoye, MD, EPIMAD registry and department of gastroenterology, University Hospital, Rouen, France.

--By Paula Katz, special to ACP Internist