Crohn's Disease (cont.)

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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:

  1. Removal of a diseased segment of the small intestine that is causing obstruction.
  2. Drainage of pus from abdominal and peri-rectal abscesses.
  3. Treatment of severe anal fistulae that do not respond to drugs.
  4. Resection of internal fistulae (such as a fistula between the colon and bladder) that are causing infections.

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
(Based on the Second European Evidence-Based Consensus on the Diagnosis and Management of Crohn's Disease.)8

Mild to Moderate Active Disease

  • Commonly treated with oral mesalamine 3.2-4 g daily or sulfasalazine for ileocolonic or colonic disease as 3-6 g daily in divided doses (this approach has more recently been reported to be not very effective).
  • Budesonide (9 mg/day) is effective for disease confined to ileum and/or right colon.
  • Proton pump inhibitors might help with symptomatic improvement in patients with upper gastrointestinal Crohn's disease.

Moderate to Severe Disease

  • Prednisone 40-60 mg/day until resolution of symptoms.
  • Appropriate antibiotic therapy for infection or abscess.
  • Azathioprine and 6-MP are effective for maintaining a steroid-induced remission.
  • Methotrexate 25 mg/wk is effective for steroid-dependent and steroid-refractory Crohn's disease.
  • Infliximab, adalimumab, and certolizumab pegol are effective in the treatment of moderate to severely active disease in patients who have not responded to adequate therapy with a steroid or immunosuppressive agent.
  • Natalizumab is effective in the treatment of patients with moderate to severely active CD who have had an inadequate response or are unable to tolerate conventional Crohn's disease therapy and anti-TNF antibody therapy.

Perianal or Fistulizing Disease

  • Surgical drainage for abscess
  • Otherwise, treated medically with antibiotics (metronidazole), immunosuppressives, or infliximab.

Patient Comments

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Crohn's Disease - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of Crohn's disease can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Crohn's Disease - Diet Question: What diet changes did you have to make, or continue to make to control the symptoms of your Crohn's disease?
Crohn's Disease - Treatment Question: Describe the various kinds of treatment you've had for Crohn's disease.
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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