The course, prognosis and management of 62 patients with Crohn's disease aged 55 years or over at diagnosis has been reviewed. The distal ileus was the commonest site of disease in the older patient, where the characteristic presentation was acute after initially mild symptoms. Early local resection was often required, particularly where there was diagnostic doubt or suspicion of caecal malignancy. Recurrence rates were much lower in the older patient than after resection in younger patients. Medical treatment played a minor role in the management of patients with distal ileal disease, in part because stricture formation was present at diagnosis and the acute nature of symptoms at presentation led to early surgical treatment. Colonic Crohn's disease was usually confined to the distal or left side of the colon and initially could be difficult to distinguish from diverticular disease. Extensive colonic Crohn's disease was rare. The apparently limited disease was not necessarily associated with a good prognosis, since disease at this site sometimes progressed rapidly, necessitating urgent surgical resection. Medical treatment (corticosteriod therapy, with or without azathioprine) was usually effective initially for treatment of symptomatic colonic Crohn's disease, but sustained remission was rare. Those patients with persistent symptoms were restored to good health with surgical treatment but at a price, in that nearly half eventually required a permanent stoma.
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