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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 15, Issue 9, Pages 586-590

Colonic Disorders in Adult Cystic Fibrosis

Hugh Chaun

Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic and Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, St Paul’s Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Received 29 November 1999; Accepted 29 November 1999

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


By 1996, the median survival of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) in North America had increased to 31 years. With the markedly improved life expectancy, many CF patients are now adults. There is an associated increased risk of certain colonic disorders, and the emergence of other previously unrecognized disorders, in adult CF patients. The distal intestinal obstruction syndrome (DIOS), which is more common in older patients, is a frequent cause of abdominal pain. Intussusception may complicate DIOS; other differential diagnoses include appendiceal disease, volvolus, Crohn's disease, fibrosing colonopathy and colonic carcinoma. The diagnosis of acute appendicitis, although uncommon in patients with CF, is often delayed, and appendiceal abscess is a frequent complication. The prevalence of Crohn's disease in CF has been shown to be 17 times that of the general population. Right-sided microscopic colitis is a recently recognized entity in CF of uncertain clinical significance. Fibrosing colonopathy has been confined mostly to children with CF, attributed to the use of high strength pancreatic enzyme supplements, but it has been reported in three adults. Nine cases of carcinoma of the large intestine have been reported worldwide, associated with an apparent excess risk of digestive tract cancers in CF. Despite high carrier rates of Clostridium difficile in patients with CF, pseudomembranous colitis is distinctly rare, but severe cases complicated by toxic megacolon have been reported. In these patients, watery diarrhea is often absent. Adult CF patients with refractory or unexplained intestinal symptoms merit thorough investigations.