Inflammatory bowel disease course in Crohn's disease: is the natural history changing?

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Mar 28;20(12):3198-207. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i12.3198.


Crohn's disease (CD) is a multifactorial potentially debilitating disease. It has a variable disease course, but the majority of patients eventually develop penetrating or stricturing complications leading to repeated surgeries and disability. Studies on the natural history of CD provide invaluable data on its course and clinical predictors, and may help to identify patient subsets based on clinical phenotype. Most data are available from referral centers, however these outcomes may be different from those in population-based cohorts. New data suggest the possibility of a change in the natural history in Crohn's disease, with an increasing percentage of patients diagnosed with inflammatory disease behavior. Hospitalization rates remain high, while surgery rates seem to have decreased in the last decade. In addition, mortality rates still exceed that of the general population. The impact of changes in treatment strategy, including increased, earlier use of immunosuppressives, biological therapy, and patient monitoring on the natural history of the disease are still conflictive. In this review article, the authors summarize the available evidence on the natural history, current trends, and predictive factors for evaluating the disease course of CD.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Disease course; Inflammatory bowel disease; Mortality; Natural history; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Constriction, Pathologic / complications
  • Crohn Disease / mortality
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology*
  • Crohn Disease / surgery
  • Disease Progression
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biological Products
  • Immunosuppressive Agents