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S Afr J Surg. 2017 Sep;55(3):20-26.

Predictors of emergency colectomy in patients admitted with acute severe ulcerative colitis.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town.



Acute Severe Ulcerative Colitis (ASUC) is a life-threatening condition which requires urgent and aggressive medical therapy to reduce mortality, morbidity and avoid surgery. To facilitate this process, it is essential to identify patients at high risk of poor outcomes and emergency colectomy. Numerous such risk factors have been described in Western literature, however there is no local data addressing this issue. As such it is unclear if these predictors are applicable in our setting. The aim of this study is thus to identify risk factors for emergency colectomy in patients admitted to Groote Schuur Hospital with ASUC.


A retrospective cohort study of 98 patients admitted with ASUC between January 2003 and January 2013 was performed. Clinical, demographic, laboratory and endoscopic factors on admission and 3 days thereafter were analysed as predictors of colectomy by univariate and multivariate analysis.


Twenty-five percent of the cohort underwent emergency colectomy. On univariate analysis, factors predicting colectomy on admission were exposure to oral corticosteroids (p=0.01), megacolon (p=0.049) or mucosal islands (p=0.04) on abdominal X-ray, and a short duration from UC diagnosis until presentation with ASUC (p=0.04). The only variable that was significantly associated with colectomy on day 3 was serum albumin (p=0.01). This was also the only variable to remain significant on multivariate analysis (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.65-0.97, p=0.01).


ASUC is a medical emergency and predicting colectomy risk aids in therapeutic management. The only variable significantly associated with the need for surgery in our study was hypoalbuminaemia on day 3. Given the small study numbers a larger prospective study would be of value.


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