SEATTLE (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)Diverting loop ileostomies save patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with severe colitis from rushed total abdominal colectomies, buying time for patient optimization before surgery, and perhaps even saving colons, according to a report from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Urgent colectomy is the standard of care, but it’s a big operation when patients aren’t doing well. Immunosuppression, malnutrition, and other problems lead to high rates of complications.

In 2013, UCLA physicians decided to try rescue diverting loop ileostomies (DLIs), a relatively quick, minimally invasive option to temporarily divert the fecal stream, instead. The idea is to give the colon a chance to heal and the patient another shot at medical management and recovery before definitive surgery. There’s even a chance of colon salvage.

The approach has been working well at UCLA. Investigators previously reported good results for their first eight patients. They presented updated results for the series – now up to 34 patients – at the annual meeting of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

So far, DLI allowed 91% of patients (31/34) to avoid urgent total colectomies. It’s “a safe alternative. Patients undergoing DLI have acceptably low complication rates and most are afforded time for medical and nutritional optimization prior to proceeding with their definitive surgical care,” said presenter Tara Russell, MD, a UCLA surgery resident.

“Currently, [almost every] patient presenting with acute colitis who we aren’t able to get to the point of discharge with medical optimization” is now offered rescue DLI at the university, and patients have been eager for a chance at avoiding total colectomy. The only patients who are not offered DLI are those with, for instance, fulminant toxic megacolon, Dr. Russell said.

The DLI approach failed in just 2 of the 18 ulcerative colitis patients and 1 of the 16 Crohn’s patients in the series. All three went on to emergent total colectomies 11-53 days after the procedure.

The majority of DLI patients tolerated oral intake by postop day 1, and the median time to resuming a regular diet was 2 days. Most people were discharged within a day or 2 of diversion, and a few took longer to achieve medical rescue. Almost 90% had an improvement in nutritional status, and over 80% went on to elective laparoscopic definitive procedures or colon salvage.

Two patients had postop wound infections, “but there were no other complications” with DLI, Dr. Russell said.

All DLIs were performed with a single-incision laparoscopic approach and took an average of about a half hour. Most of the diversions were in the right lower abdominal quadrant.

The mean age of the patients was 36 years, with a range of 16-81 years. Just over half were men. Of 21 patients who met systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria at the time of operation, 13 (62%) resolved within 24 hours of DLI.