Objective: The purpose of this open pilot study was to assess prospectively the effect of infliximab on extraintestinal manifestations in patients with active Crohn's disease refractory to conventional treatment.
Patients and methods: Twenty-two consecutive patients with Crohn's disease and one with ulcerative colitis presenting at least one of the known extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn's disease participated in the study. All the patients had Crohn's disease activity index (CAI) scores above 2. Each patient received an intravenous infusion of infliximab at a dosage of 5 mg/kg. A thorough questionnaire was used reviewing the extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn's disease such as erythema nodosum, pyoderma gangrenosum, eye lesions, arthritis or arthralgia, sacroiliitis or inflammatory back pain, hepatic disease, hematologic manifestations (megaloblastic, iron deficiency or hemolytic anemia, thrombocytosis), thrombosis, and nephrolithiasis. Musculoskeletal complaints were evaluated using the parameters intensity of pain, duration of morning stiffness (in minutes), presence of inflammatory back pain, Schober's test of the lumbar region, chest expansion, and distance from occiput to wall. The clinical assessment was performed on the day of the infusion and 2 weeks later.
Results: Eleven out of 23 patients had arthralgia of inflammatory nature, three others had evidence of active synovitis on physical examination, and 11 reported inflammatory back pain. Four patients suffered from protracted pyoderma gangrenosum; three had resistant aphthous stomatitis. Eleven patients had more than one extraintestinal manifestation. All four with pyoderma gangrenosum demonstrated significant improvement of their ulcers after one course of infliximab, with complete resolution of the skin lesions in three of them after repeated infusions of infliximab. Aphthous stomatitis completely responded in all patients after a single infusion. Seven out of 11 patients with arthralgia and seven out of 11 with inflammatory back pain/sacroiliitis experienced benefit after treatment with infliximab and reported at least partial clinical improvement in duration of morning stiffness, tender joint count, and visual analogue scale for pain. Only one of three patients with frank arthritis demonstrated clear improvement, and two others failed to respond to infliximab treatment.
Conclusion: These preliminary results are encouraging and suggest a promising role of infliximab in the treatment of extraintestinal symptoms of Crohn's disease.