New IBD team comes together to help safeguard immunosuppressed patients

Did you know that Australia currently has the highest incidence of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in the world?

More than 80,000 Australians suffering from IBD - the same number as suffer from other chronic illnesses including Type 1 diabetes and Rheumatoid arthritis.

A/Prof Peter De Cruz, Director of the IBD service at Austin Health, said IBD is predominantly comprised of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis, disorders which result in damage to the gut and affects the guts ability to absorb food and water.

"The cause of IBD is unknown but thought to occur due to an uncoordinated immune response to an imbalance between the 'good' and 'bad' bugs in the gut among people who have genes that increase their likelihood of developing the disease," A/Prof De Cruz said.

"IBD impacts patients beyond the symptoms of diarrhea or abdominal pain alone."

"Patients with IBD are often diagnosed in their 20s to 30s at a time when they are trying to study, find work, start relationships or have children."

"IBD can be particularly disruptive to a patient’s quality of life and ability to function socially and mentally. Optimal management of chronic diseases such as IBD therefore requires a multidisciplinary approach to care," he said.

Our IBD service has recently assembled a team of gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, IBD nurses, Pharmacist, Dietician, Psychologist, Pathologist and Radiologist and administrative officer.

"Our IBD multidisciplinary meeting has been a particularly helpful forum to review complex cases and support collaborative multi-disciplinary decision making and care co-ordination," said IBD service team leader, Kristy Boyd

"We have also commenced a Virtual Biologics Clinic to attended by gastroenterologists, pharmacist and IBD nurse to remotely manage patients on biologic medications to proactively optimise therapy.

"The COVID19 pandemic has highlighted the need to keep our immunosuppressed cohort of patients safe.

"We have recently established a set of unit guidelines to facilitate the management of complex patients with IBD including specific patient and clinician COVID-19 guidance documents," Kristy said.

The IBD service is based on Level 8 of the HSB at the Austin campus and runs three specialist IBD Outpatient Clinics per week, as well as offering an IBD Helpline phone and email support service and maintaining a strong research focus that offers patients access to several clinical trials.