12/01/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/01/2021 09:19
Highmark Inc. approves coverage of state-of-the-art therapy at AHN for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
PITTSBURGH - This 'Crohn's & Colitis Awareness Week,' observed annually the first week of December, physicians at Allegheny Health Network's (AHN) Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are taking the opportunity to educate the community about these chronic conditions and the innovative endoscopic IBD treatment program that AHN now uniquely offers to patients in Western Pennsylvania.
IBD is a term used to describe lifelong conditions of the bowel including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Characterized by chronic and prolonged inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the exact cause of IBD is unknown and there is also no cure. Most recent data suggests that it impacts approximately 3 million Americans, typically starting at a young age, and has significantly increased in prevalence over the last couple of decades.
"While there are many effective treatments to control the symptoms of IBD, these digestive conditions can often be debilitating and difficult to manage. At the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, we are pleased to be leading the charge both regionally and nationally in advancing care for patients with particularly complex cases of IBD so that they can maintain the highest quality of life possible," said Sandra El Hachem, MD, director, AHN Center for IBD.
The AHN center takes a team-based approach to patient care, employing the expertise of a range of leading specialists in gastroenterology, nutrition, behavioral health and colorectal surgery to create individualized treatment plans. The center's state-of-the-art clinical capabilities now include an interventional IBD endoscopy program that is one of only a few of its kind in the country for the nonsurgical management of IBD and other digestive orders.
The AHN IBD endoscopy program is led by AHN gastroenterologist Gursimran Kochhar, MD, associate division chief and medical director of Interventional endoscopy within the AHN Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Some of the advanced treatment options within the program which help patients to avoid traditional surgery and, in many cases, go home on the same day, include endoluminal procedures for the removal of precancerous/early cancerous lesions and deep tumors in the GI tract; Zenker's diverticulectomy to relieve outpouchings that occur at the junction of the lower part of the throat and upper portion of the esophagus; complex endoscopic drainage of fluid collections in the pancreas; and more.
For the treatment of IBD complications such as strictures and fistulas, which commonly develop in the bowel, Dr. Kochhar also offers advanced, minimally invasive treatments called endoscopic stricturotomy and fistulotomy in which electroincision is used to cut the stricture or fistula.
Highmark Health Plan also recently updated its medical policy to include coverage for endoscopic stricturotomy. This ensures that health plan members can receive authorization for the procedure without first exploring other treatment methods.
"Through the work of Dr. Kochhar and his contributions to the literature on this procedure, we have seen the clear benefits of endoscopic stricturotomy for our members with Crohn's disease and other digestive conditions. We are pleased to offer this technique as a covered benefit such that these patients can get the best treatment available as soon as they need it," said Matthew Fickie, MD, senior medical director for Highmark Health Plan.
To make an appointment with an IBD specialist at AHN, call 412-DOCTORS.