Toronto Consensus for Perianal Fistulizing Crohn’s Disease

A recent consensus report (AH Steinhart, R Panaccione et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2019; 1-13) provides updated guidelines for the management of perianal fistulizing Crohn’s disease (CD).

As an aside, the article starts off with an extremely lengthy disclosure (of financial interests) –more than 30 lines of extremely small font!

The scope of the problem:

  • About 21% of CD patients have developed perianal fistulizing disease by 10 yrs and 26% after 20 years.
  • This complication leads to significant morbidity/reduced quality of life and about 70% require surgical treatment during long-term followup.

The substance of the article are summarized in Table 4 and Figure 1. The recommendations all are considered to be based on either low quality of evidence or very low quality of evidence:

  • In those with active fistulizing disease, the authors recommend imaging (EUS or MRI)
  • In those with evidence of complicated fistulizing disease, “we suggest surgical consultation.”
  • In those with active fistulizing CD, “we suggest the use of antibiotic therapy for initial management.”
  • In those with active fistulizing CD, “we recommend the use of anti-TNF therapy” for induction and maintenance.
  • In those with active fistulizing CD, “when starting anti-TNF therapy, we suggest it be combined with thiopurine or methotrexate over monotherapy to optimize pharmacokinetic parameters.”
  • In those with active fistulizing CD, surgical management is recommended in those when there is an inadequate response to medical management.

Some additional pointers:

  • Early surgical consultation is recommended in setting of suspected clinical abscess (eg. pain, fever, leukocytosis).
  • The authors’ algorithm suggests that if early surgical intervention is not required, then patients should first receive antibiotics for initial symptom control, followed by imaging, and, if uncomplicated fistulizing disease on imaging, followed by anti-TNF therapy (with either MTX or thiopurine).  If complicated fistulizing disease, then surgical intervention may be needed prior to institution of anti-TNF therapy.
  • “The rate of fistula healing was 43% with medical therapy alone and 53% with combination surgical and medical therapy” based on a systematic review of 8 cohort studies.

My take: This article helps simplify/streamline the approach to this troubling complication.

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Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.


Shoshone, California

Iron Metabolism Improves after Anti-TNF Therapy for Crohn’s Disease

A previous study has shown that low vitamin D levels improved with anti-TNF therapy for Crohn’s disease in the absence of supplemental vitamin D.  Similarly, a recent study (MA Atkinson, MB Leonare, R Herskovitz, RN Baldassano, MR Denburg. JPGN 2018; 66: 90-4) showed improvement in iron metabolism with anti-TNF therapy.

In 40 children and adolescents with Crohn’s disease, the authors measured serum hepcidin-25 and hemoglobin at baseline and then 10 weeks after anti-TNF therapy.

Key findings:

  • Median hepcidin concentrations decreased (27.9–>23.2 ng/mL) and mean hemoglobin increased (10.6–>10.9).
  • Disease activity and markers of inflammation also decreased.

My take: This study shows that improvement in inflammation is associated with meaningful improvement in anemia.  However, most patients will need additional treatment for anemia, particularly as anemia may be related to blood loss in addition to anemia of chronic disease/inflammation.

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Expert Guidance on Pediatric Postoperative Crohn’s Disease

A recent NASPGHAN clinical report (JB Splawski et al JPGN 2017; 65: 475-86) updates recommendations to lower the rate of postoperative recurrence in pediatric Crohn Disease (CD).  In this report, after review of a number of studies, the authors provide a management algorithm (Figure 1).  In addition, they review risk factors for surgery/postoperative recurrence in CD.

Key points:

  • “Endoscopic recurrence precedes clinical recurrence, and is a better predictor of the risk for future surgery.”
  • “Anti-TNF agents appear to be the most effective treatment in preventing postoperative recurrence.”  These agents “can be started as early as 4 weeks after surgery.”
  • “Prophylactic treatment to prevent recurrence rather than treating after the disease recurs, appears to be more effective in preventing further surgery.”
  • “Early postoperative surveillance for disease recurrence allows for a change in management to prevent complications that may lead to further surgery.” The authors note that fecal calprotectin (and lactoferrin) return to baseline around 2 months after surgery, and “monitoring disease activity postsurgery with these tests may help determine appropriate selection for more invasive testing such as endoscopy.”

My take: The authors emphasize that “whatever treatment is chosen, early surveillance for disease recurrence is clearly needed.”  In addition, anti-TNF agents are most likely to lower risk of further surgery.

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Silver Bridge, Colorado River, Bright Angel Trail. Grand Canyon


Two Viewpoints: Anti-TNF Therapy Shortly After Crohn’s Disease Surgery

A recent AGA perspectives issue provides two viewpoints on when to start/resume anti-TNF therapy after Crohn’s disease surgery:

Dr. Bressler states that he considers anti-TNF therapy for patients with ongoing immune dysfunction after surgery who are at high risk for recurrence.  Attributes of high risk disease include the following:

  • younger age (<30 years)
  • smoker
  • two or more surgeries for penetrating disease.

His commentary indicates that a “‘wait and see’ approach is appropriate for most patients. He frequently will measure a calprotectin three months postoperatively and every three months and perform a colonoscopy typically 6-9 months postoperatively. Those with endoscopic recurrence will be placed on anti-TNF therapy.

Dr. Requiero states:

  • The most effective way to prevent recurrence is to initiate an anti-TNF within four weeks of surgery. It has been my practice that patients at high risk for postoperative Crohn’s disease recurrence initiate anti-TNF shortly after they are discharged from the hospital.
  • If a patient had been on an anti-TNF prior to the surgery, I will usually resume the same anti-TNF after the surgery. In these patients, I do not give a re-induction course unless they had not received the anti-TNF for more than three months prior to surgery.
  • Concomitant therapy: “In the majority of patients, I treat with an anti-TNF, I will use a concomitant immunomodulator…One year after surgery, if there is no disease recurrence, I will decrease and often stop the immunomodulator. With the advent of therapeutic drug monitoring, I have a number of postoperative anti-TNF patients on monotherapy without an immunomodulator.
  • [In] patients at moderate risk for postoperative recurrence… I perform an ileocolonoscopy six months postoperatively and, if there is evidence of endoscopic recurrence, I add an anti-TNF agent. After finding a high rate of recurrence in these patients, I am beginning to shift my practice to initiating anti-TNFs in this moderate-risk group as well.

My take: I tend to favor Dr. Reguieiro’s approach in my patient population.

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Mandated Malpractice in IBD Care?

A recent study (A Yada et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2017; 23: 853-7) finds that insurance policies are not in compliance with expert guidelines.  The authors reviewed 79 policies from the top insurance companies to examine their policies regarding anti-TNF agents, vedolizumab, and ustekinumab.  These policies were compared with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) clinical pathway recommendations for ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD).

Key findings:

  • “90% of the policies required step-wise failure prior to starting anti-TNF for non-fistulizing CD.”
  • “When choosing anti-TNF therapy, 26% of policies required the use of adalimumab as the first anti-TNF agent.”
  • 98% of policies are inconsistent with AGA IBD guidelines

Discussion from authors:

  • “The plans do not allow for treatment based on disease severity but rather dictate treatment based on the required failure of different drug classes.”
  • “Only 2% of UC policies and 10% of CD policies allowed for early initiation of biologic therapy to reduce the risk of complications.”
  • “The goal of medical management is to minimize the use of corticosteroids…However, the majority of the current policies…preclude this standard-of-care management.”

My take (from authors): “Most insurance companies do not comply with the current standard of care for treating IBD.” My expectation is that these problems will continue and/or worsen as the options for IBD treatment become more complex.

Normandy American Cementary


February Briefs

JM Powers et al. J Pediatr 2017; 180: 212-6. This retrospective study details a protocol for using intravenous ferric carboxymaltose (FCM) (Injectafer) in children.  This product has become available for adults in U.S. since June 2013; it had been available in Europe since 2009. In this retrospective study, 72 pediatric patients received FCM for iron deficiency anemia (off-label); there was a good safety profile and a good response with hemoglobin increasing from 9.1 to 12.3 (4-12 weeks post infusion).  FCM is a relatively costly IV iron formulation, but can be given over 15 minutes.

L Peyrin-Biroulet et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 25-36.  This systemic review with more than 2800 patients showed that TNF antagonists were effective for extraintestinal manifestations of inflammatory bowel disease, including cutaneous disorders (eg.. pyoderma gangrenosum, erythema nodosum), hematologic problems (eg anemia), ocular disorders, and rheumatologic symptoms( eg. arthralgias/arthritis).

AE Mikolajczyk et alClin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 17-24. Useful review of the GI/Liver manifestations of autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease. “There is not a role for therapy [for the liver] in asymptomatic patients.” Other problems reviewed included pancreatic cysts, hernias, and diverticular disease. Related posts:

T Rajalahti et al. JPGN 2017; 64: e1-6.  Among 455 patients <18 with Celiac disease, anemia was noted in 18%. This resolved in 92% after one year of a gluten-free diet.  Anemia is associated with more severe histological and serological presentation. Related posts:

FL Cameron et al. JPGN 2017; 64: 47-55. This retrospective review of 93 children treated with infliximab and 28 children with adalimumab provides data on growth after anti-TNF therapy.  This study shows that anti-TNF therapy is more likely to be associated with growth improvement when used at earlier stages of puberty.

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Chattahoochee River

Chattahoochee River

What happens when anti-TNF therapy is stopped

Another study (NA Kennedy et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2016; 43: 910-23) has examined the issue of outcomes after anti-TNF therapy withdrawal among patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

This study included 166 UK patient cohort (117 with Crohn’s disease [median 31 yrs], 19 with ulcerative colitis [median 40 years]) as part of a retrospective observational study and a meta-analysis incorporating 11 further cohorts totalling 746 patients (624 with Crohn’s dissease, 122 with ulcerative colitis).

Key findings:

  • In the UK cohort, relapse rates were 36% at year and 56% at 2 years for Crohn’s disease
  • In the UK cohort, relapse rates were 42% at year and 47% at 2 years for ulcerative colitis
  • Increased relapse rates were noted for those with a diagnosis prior to age 22 years (hazard ratio (HR) 2.78), calprotectin >50 mcg/g (HR 2.95).
  • In meta-analysis, 1-year relapse rates were 39% for CD and 35% for UC/IBDU patients
  • Retreatment with anti-TNF was successful in 88% for CD and 76% of UC/IBDU patients

To understand this study, it is important to note some of the study criteria.  In the UK cohort, inclusion criteria required the patient to have had at least 12 months of ant-TNF therapy and be in corticosteroid-remission for at least 6 months.  In addition, the relapse rate is likely to be underestimated due to using a definition of relapse that required either commencement of steroids, immunomodulator or anti-TNF therapy.  The meta-anlaysis cohort studies also used clinical relapse rather than endoscopic or other objective markers.

My take: Relapse of clinical symptoms occur in about 40% after withdrawal in highly-selected groups who were doing well prior.  Significantly higher rates of endoscopic relapse are likely.  This study provides strong reasons for not interrupting therapy when it is working.

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