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COVID-19 & IBD: Disease Monitoring

Whether you're newly diagnosed with IBD, or have been managing your disease for many years, regular follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor the condition of your bowel, watch for signs of a flare, address any changes in symptoms, and identify possible side effects of treatment. You may have questions about how your healthcare team will monitor your disease during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on these routine areas of care—we're here to help.

Routine testing and clinical encounters

Many providers have moved to phone or video encounters for stable patients. You should inquire about the availability of these options and try to keep these appointments so you can discuss your current situation and plans for staying well through this difficult time. It may be that your healthcare team will recommend that routine tests (such as blood work, colonoscopies, or endoscopies, imaging tests, etc.) can be safely delayed by a few months, until the pandemic restrictions are loosened. If you are otherwise scheduled for routine tests, it is a good idea to call your healthcare team to learn their current process and recommendations

However, if you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, or making changes in your medical therapy, lab testing and other tests for diagnosis or evaluation may be important for your medical team to keep you feeling well during this time. Please contact your healthcare team's office and seek their advice. Ask about the timing of lab work or tests needed, the safest location to have this testing completed, and any special precautions being taken to keep you safe. Before going to any healthcare setting or public place, it is important to continue to follow precautions as recommended by the CDC. 

Although your doctor may recommend holding off on routine tests for now, it is important not to forget these next steps in your care! Keep a list of appointments you need to schedule later so that you do not lose track. Remember that these routine tests help your doctor monitor your disease and overall health.

Disease flares and emergency room visits

If you are experiencing a flare, contact your healthcare team right away and seek their advice. Your medical team may be able to evaluate your symptoms using a telemedicine visit. Often laboratory testing or imaging can be arranged without the need for you to be seen in the emergency department. However, there are times when patients experience severe symptoms that require evaluation in the ER. If your doctor suggests that you need to go to the ER, or if you are unable to contact your doctor or feel that your symptoms are urgent, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. Many practices are also holding urgent access office visits to reduce emergency department visits.

Most emergency departments are taking careful precautions to separate patients arriving with respiratory symptoms or possible COVID-19 from patients presenting with other problems. If you feel that your symptoms are emergent, you should still notify your medical team, as they may be able to alert the emergency department prior to your arrival and provide the team with detailed information regarding your disease and your care needs.  

Last updated April 8, 2020