Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are progressive diseases associated with a high risk of complications over time including strictures, fistulae, perianal complications, surgery, and colorectal cancer. Changing the natural history and avoiding evolution to a disabling disease should be the main goal of treatment. In recent studies, mucosal healing has been associated with longer-term remission and fewer complications. Conventional therapies with immunosuppressive drugs are able to induce mucosal healing in a minority of cases but their impact on disease progression appears modest. Higher rates of mucosal healing can be achieved with anti-tumor necrosis factor therapies that reduce the risk of relapse, surgery and hospitalization, and are associated with perianal fistulae closure. These drugs might be able to change the natural history of the disease mainly when introduced early in the course of the disease. Treatment strategy in inflammatory bowel diseases should thus be tailored according to the risk that each patient could develop disabling disease.
Keywords: Complications; Crohn’s disease; Inflammatory bowel diseases; Surgery; Therapy; Ulcerative colitis.