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Understanding Pouchitis

Pouchitis is a health problem you can get after having J-pouch surgery. It’s when a pouch made during the surgery becomes red and swollen.

J-pouch surgery helps treat conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It's done when a person’s colon and rectum are taken out. A surgeon then replaces the rectum with a man-made pouch. The surgeon makes the pouch from the ileum. The ileum is the last part of the small intestine.

The pouch is shaped like the letter J. It works like the rectum. It holds waste until it leaves the body through the anus. After the surgery, the lining of the pouch may become inflamed. This is pouchitis.

What causes pouchitis?

Experts aren’t quite sure what causes pouchitis. But after J-pouch surgery, bacteria that live in the gut change. The immune system may react to this change. This may cause the inflammation.

You are more likely to get pouchitis after J-pouch surgery if you:

  • Have ulcerative colitis

  • Have chronic liver disease

  • Have a viral or bacterial infection

  • Smoke

  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Are male

  • Have had belly surgery in the past

Symptoms of pouchitis

These are the symptoms of pouchitis:

  • Diarrhea

  • A strong or frequent urge to have a bowel movement

  • Belly cramps

  • Pelvic pain or pressure

  • Fecal incontinence

  • Fever

  • Joint pain

To find out if you have pouchitis, your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. You may also need these tests:

  • Blood and stool tests

  • Endoscopy

  • Biopsy

  • Imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI

Treatment for pouchitis

The main treatment for pouchitis is antibiotics. You will take this medicine for a few weeks. If your symptoms don’t go away or they come back, your healthcare provider may try other antibiotics.

Man taking pills in kitchen.

If the pouchitis lasts for more than 4 weeks, you may have to keep taking the antibiotics to control your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may also advise that you:

  • Stop taking NSAIDs, if needed

  • Have surgery to fix any problems that may be causing pouchitis

  • Treat other possible causes of pouchitis, such as an infection

  • Take other medicines, such as steroids

  • Make some life changes. Losing weight may help. So, too, may eating foods low in carbohydrates or fiber.

What to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.