Background & aims: Infliximab might prevent postsurgical recurrence of Crohn's disease. However, it is unclear whether long-term therapy is necessary and whether alternative strategies could be applied to minimize potential side effects and reduce the costs of treatment.
Methods: We performed a prospective cohort study in 12 consecutive patients, treated immediately after surgery with maintenance infliximab (5 mg/kg), who did not have clinical or endoscopic evidence of disease recurrence after 24 months; they were followed up for an additional year. Infliximab treatment was then discontinued; patients with disease recurrence, based on endoscopy (Rutgeerts score, >or=2), were given lower doses of infliximab (starting with 1 mg/kg) to re-establish mucosal integrity. Surrogate markers of disease activity (fecal calprotectin [FC], C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate) were assessed after each infliximab dose.
Results: None of the patients had clinical or endoscopic recurrence of Crohn's disease 3 years after surgery. However, discontinuation of infliximab caused endoscopic recurrence after 4 months in 10 of 12 patients (83%). All 10 patients then were treated again with infliximab, which, at a dose of 3 mg/kg every 8 weeks, restored and maintained mucosal integrity for 1 year. Among the surrogate markers, FC levels correlated with endoscopic scores (Wald test, P < .0001).
Conclusions: Long-term maintenance therapy with infliximab is required to maintain mucosal integrity in patients after surgery for Crohn's disease. However, a dose of 3 mg/kg (a 40% reduction from the standard dose) was sufficient to avoid disease recurrence, determined by endoscopy, in all patients at 1 year. FC levels correlate with mucosal status at different infliximab doses.
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