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High-Yield Facts

  • 20% to 30% of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cases are diagnosed during childhood

  • Extraintestinal manifestations (EIM), particularly growth delay, may be the predominate presenting feature in childhood IBD

  • Coinfection with Clostridium difficile increases morbidity

Approximately two million people worldwide are afflicted with IBD. IBD is more common in westernized societies and in the northern hemisphere. There is a higher incidence in Caucasians and those of Jewish descent. Approximately 20% to 30% of all patients with IBD present during childhood.1,2 Childhood incidence is estimated at 0.5 to 4.3/100,000 for ulcerative colitis (UC) and 0.2 to 8.5/100,000 for Crohn disease (CD).3 The incidence of UC has remained stable whereas pediatric CD has increased in incidence.47 UC and CD occur equally in the first 8 years of life and CD is more common in older children.8


The exact pathophysiology of IBD is not well understood. There is likely a combination of environmental, genetic, and immune factors. An environmental trigger may incite a deregulation of immune response to gut flora in a genetically susceptible host.911 Patients with IBD have less complex profiles of commensal bacteria and higher numbers of mucosa-associated bacteria as compared to healthy individuals.9 Increased intestinal permeability and food-borne bacterial infections trigger some IBD cases.

The cause of IBD is multifactorial, but there are many known risk factors. A family history of IBD carries an 8- to 10-fold greater risk and IBD frequency in first-degree relatives may be as high as 40%.3,12 IBD is particularly severe in Jewish persons with familial Mediterranean fever.13 Pediatric IBD has a stronger genetic correlation, possibly because children have less lifetime exposure to environmental factors.1416 Infections are also associated with IBD. C. difficile infection can be either an inciting or exacerbating factor.17 An increased risk of IBD has been shown in persons after acute gastroenteritis with Salmonella or Campylobacter.18,19 The risk is highest during the first year after the gastroenteritis episode, but remains high compared to matched controls for up to 15 years.19 Other environmental risk factors include: smoking (in CD; smoking is protective against UC), exclusive formula-feeding, a diet high in animal protein,20 occupation, education, climate, and stress.3

Clinical Presentation

Pediatric patients with IBD typically present with signs and symptoms of colitis. Often, they have a subacute illness with abdominal pain and diarrhea that is often bloody. Fever, fatigue, anemia, and weight loss are also common presenting symptoms in IBD. Symptoms may be persistent (≥4 weeks) or recurrent (≥2 episodes in 6 months)20 EIM occur in 6% of children upon presentation have a total incidence of 25% to 35%.14 IBD relapse can be precipitated by bacterial, parasitic or viral superinfection. C. difficile and cytomegalovirus ...

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