Objective: Prediction of the clinical course of Crohn's disease (CD) is difficult in the long term. Our aim was to determine whether the presence of severe endoscopic lesions (SELs) may predict a higher risk of colectomy and penetrating complications.
Methods: All patients at our institution with active ileocoIonic CD who had colonoscopies between 1990 and 1996 were included in the study. SELs were defined as extensive and deep ulcerations covering more than 10% of the mucosal area of at least one segment of the colon.
Results: Among the 102 patients included, 53 had SELs at index colonoscopy. During the follow-up (median = 52 months), 37 patients underwent colonic resection. Probabilities of colectomy at 1, 3, and 8 yr were 20%, 26%, and 42%. Risk of colectomy was independently affected by the presence of SELs at index colonoscopy (relative risk [RR] = 5.43, 95% CI = 2.64-11.18), a Crohn's Disease Activity Index level greater than 288 (RR = 2.21, 95% CI = 1.09-4.47), and the absence of immunosuppressive therapy during the follow-up (RR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.20-5.00). Probabilities of colectomy were, respectively, 31% and 6% at 1 yr, 42% and 8% at 3 yr, and 62% and 18% at 8 yr in patients with and without SELs. We performed a second analysis excluding the 14 patients operated on within the 3 months after the index colonoscopy: presence of SELs remained the only significant factor predictive of colectomy (RR = 6.72, 95% CI = 2.26-20.03). All six patients with penetrating complications during the follow-up had SELs at index colonoscopy.
Conclusions: Patients with CD exhibiting deep and extensive ulcerations at colonoscopy have a more aggressive clinical course with an increased rate of penetrating complications and surgery.