Dr. Ernest Seidman with his patient, Marjolaine Levasseur.

McGill IBD Centre of Excellence

Montreal leads the fight against inflammatory bowel disease

By Jason Santerre

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), comprised of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is the most common disabling chronic bowel illness. The incidence is increasing and Canada has the world’s highest rates of new cases of Crohn’s. It most often affects children and young adults in the prime of life. Treatment needs to be personalized because of the unique situations of each case.

The McGill IBD Research Group was established in 1992 by concerned members of the community to ensure financial support for IBD clinics at McGill’s teaching hospitals. Its mandate is to provide crucial services for those living with IBD. The overall goal is improving quality of life and preventing complications. In 2005, Dr Ernest Seidman was recruited to McGill as the Bruce Kaufman Endowed Chair of IBD. Under his leadership, the McGill Group provides state of the art patient-centered care provided by a multidisciplinary team of dedicated experts.

This year, the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) IBD Centre of Excellence was inaugurated on the 16th floor of the Montreal General Hospital. “It’s the first stand-alone IBD Centre of Excellence in North America,” says its director, Dr. Ernest Seidman. “This Centre not only offers follow up, but helps in emergency scenarios as well. During weekday hours, members of our expert IBD team are here to provide care in an effort for our MUHC patients to avoid needing the ER.”

Dr. Seidman’s team includes several staff doctors (see sidebar), clinical as well as research nurses, plus a dietician and support staff. They work closely with the colorectal surgery team, providing care for up to 200 patients a week. On the pediatric side, our McGill Group provides care at the new Montreal Children’s Hospital. “The McGill IBD Research Group provides funding for a clinical psychologist to offer our young patients and families support to deal with these chronic illnesses.”

Why is the incidence of Crohn’s disease in Canada so high? “There are many theories,” offers Dr. Seidman. “Some believe it’s related to our diet, yet it’s fairly similar to the US diet. Genetic differences don’t appear to explain the higher Crohn’s disease rate here either. We believe that yet unknown environmental triggers play a major role.” Dr. Seidman’s IBD Research Lab is currently focused on the role of vitamin D. “There’s a lack of vitamin D in Canadians, due to our higher latitude,” he says.

Dr. Seidman’s team at the McGill IBD Centre is investigating novel methods to distinguish Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) versus IBD. “Our Centre was among the first in North America to use fecal calprotectin in the IBD work up,” he says. This test is now a standard of care for screening for IBD and to monitor drug response. “Our efforts led to the provincial health care system to providing RAMQ coverage for the test. If the fecal calprotectin is negative, some patients can avoid colonoscopy. Even if a colonoscopy was performed, the majority of the small intestine couldn’t be seen,” says Dr. Seidman. “Our MUHC Centre pioneered videocapsule use affording endoscopy without a tube. Patients swallow this camera and with intestinal contractions, it travels from small to large bowel while taking precise video images.” Not only is this method less invasive and more cost-effective, it eliminates radiation exposure of a CT scan or long wait times for MRI scan.

And so it goes. Dr. Seidman and his team continue to advance IBD care. Their first mission, as always, is to optimize patient care. Research is paramount, as is to teach the next generation of gastroenterologists from around the world to be experts in IBD management. These goals can’t be reached without community support. This November 19, the McGill IBD Research Group will host its annual fundraising event, Laugh Your Butt Off. For more information on the event and to find out how you can help the group continue its work in treating those living with IBD, visit www.mcgillibd.ca

Meet the McGill IBD Medical Team:
Montreal General Hospital: Dr. Waqqas Afif, Dr. Talat Bessissow, Dr. Alain Bitton, Dr. Ernest Seidman, Dr. Gary Wild; Montreal Children’s Hospital: Dr. Najma Ahmed, Dr. Sylviane Forget, Dr. Dominique Levesque, Dr. Veronique Morinville, Dr. Ana Sant’Anna, Dr. Ernest Seidman, Dr. Terry Sigman; Jewish General Hospital: Dr Albert Cohen; Dr Andy Szilagyi; Dr Jonathan Wyse.


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