Surveillance of patients with chronic ulcerative colitis

B. Levin, J. Lennard-Jones, R. H. Riddell, D. Sachar, S. J. Winawer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In chronic ulcerative colitis, the object of surveillance is prevention of cancer or at least prevention of death from cancer by diagnosis at an early curable stage or by detection at a pre-malignant phase. Patients must be informed about their cancer risk as well as the limitations of endoscopic surveillance and the availability of surgical alternatives. Physicians must bear in mind the risks, benefits and costs of surveillance procedures. Patients at greatest risk of cancer for whom endoscopic surveillance is warranted are those with extensive colitis of greater than 8 years duration. Colonoscopy should be performed every 1 to 2 years at which time multiple biopsies are obtained from every 10-12 cm of normal-appearing mucosa. Targeted biopsies should also be obtained from areas where the surface appears raised as a broad-based polyp, low irregular plaque or villiform elevation, or from an unusual ulcer, particularly one with raised edges, or from a stricture. Typical inflammatory polyps need not be sampled. Colectomy is recommended in the presence of multifocal high-grade dysplasia if confirmed by an experienced pathologist. The identification of a mass lesion associated with any degree of overlying dysplasia is also a generally accepted indication for colectomy, while persistent low-grade dysplasia without a mass is somewhat more controversial. Pecently introduced biomarkers may replace or supplement dysplasia in surveillance programmes as well as provide new information about malignant transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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