Perianal fistulizing Crohn's disease: a call to action

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jan;6(1):7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2007.10.010. Epub 2007 Dec 11.


The advent of biological therapies has focused attention on the importance of healing luminal Crohn's disease, thereby modifying the disease course. Perianal fistulas are common in Crohn's disease and often have a poor prognosis, with permanent sphincter and perineal tissue destruction. The importance of healing these fistulas has been less well appreciated. Management still often is left in surgical hands alone, rather than the optimal combination of surgery, infection control, and immunosuppression. Drug therapy often is haphazard, and the means of assessing healing over a long time period has been characterized poorly. Recent studies have suggested that many of these patients can achieve fistula healing, at least in the medium term. We therefore call for more active intervention, with the goal of healing, in these sick patients. Perianal fistulas lead to substantial physical and emotional distress because of pain, discharge, incontinence, perineal and genital disfigurement, and slow resolution even with treatment. The advent of accurate anal imaging, improved knowledge of surgical outcomes, and potent biological therapies make it timely to reflect on current best-management strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Crohn Disease / complications*
  • Endosonography
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Metronidazole / therapeutic use
  • Proctocolectomy, Restorative
  • Rectal Fistula / etiology*
  • Rectal Fistula / pathology
  • Rectal Fistula / therapy*
  • Surgical Stomas
  • Wound Healing


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Metronidazole