Crohn's Disease (cont.)
Adam Schoenfeld, MD
George Y. Wu, MD, PhD
In this Article
Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) is both an immuno-modulator and anti-inflammatory medication. Methotrexate has been used for many years in the treatment of severe rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. It has been helpful in treating patients with moderate to severe Crohn's disease who are either not responding to azathioprine and 6- MP or are intolerant of them. Methotrexate also may be effective in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis who are not responding to corticosteroids, azathioprine, or 6-MP. It can be given orally or by weekly injections under the skin or into the muscles, but it is more reliably absorbed with the injections.
One major complication of methotrexate is the development of liver cirrhosis when the medication is given over a prolonged period of time (years). The risk of liver damage is higher in patients who also abuse alcohol or are severely obese. Although it has been recommended that a liver biopsy should be obtained in patients who have received a cumulative (total) methotrexate dose of 1.5 grams or higher, the need for such biopsies is controversial.
Other side effects of methotrexate include low white blood cell counts and inflammation of the lungs.
Methotrexate should not be used in pregnant women because of toxic effects on the fetus.
Surgery in Crohn's disease
There is no surgical cure for Crohn's disease. Even when all of the diseased parts of the intestines are removed, inflammation frequently recurs in previously healthy intestines months to years after the surgery. Therefore, surgery in Crohn's disease is used primarily for:
Usually, after the diseased portions of the intestines are removed surgically, patients can be free of disease and symptoms for some time, often years. Surgery, when successfully performed, can lead to a marked improvement in a patient's quality of life. In many patients, however, Crohn's disease eventually returns, affecting previously healthy intestines. The recurrent disease usually is located at or near the previous site of surgery. In fact, 50% of patients can expect to have a recurrence of symptoms within four years of surgery. Drugs such as Pentasa or 6-MP have been useful in some patients to reduce the chances of relapse of Crohn's disease after surgery.
There is accumulating evidence in favor of post-operative therapy to delay recurrence in Crohn's disease. There appears to be some benefit of mesalamine in reducing the risk of post-op recurrence for up to 3 years. A recent study has also shown infliximab to be effective in preventing postoperative recurrence after ileocecal resection, though relapse may occur when therapy is stopped5.
Treatment strategies by severity and location of disease
Mild to Moderate Active Disease
Moderate to Severe Disease
Perianal or Fistulizing Disease
Viewers share their comments
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Crohn's Disease - Medications Question: What medications have you taken for Crohn's disease? Have any of them helped with symptoms?
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