Over the past years, mucosal healing has emerged as a major therapeutic goal in clinical trials in inflammatory bowel diseases. Accumulating evidence indicates that mucosal healing may change the natural course of the disease by decreasing the need for surgery and reducing hospitalization rates in both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Mucosal healing may also prevent the development of long-term disease complications, such as bowel damage in Crohn's disease and colorectal cancer in ulcerative colitis. Histologic healing may be the ultimate therapeutic goal in ulcerative colitis, whereas its impact on the course of Crohn's disease is unknown. Complete mucosal healing may be required before considering drug withdrawal. Targeting early Crohn's disease is more effective than approaches aimed at healing mucosa in longstanding disease. Several questions remain to be answered: should mucosal healing be systematically used in clinical practice? Should we optimize therapies to achieve mucosal healing? What is the degree of intestinal healing that is required to change the disease course? Large prospective studies addressing these issues are needed.
Copyright © 2011 European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.