Background: Therapeutic targets in pediatric Crohn's disease include symptoms, quality of life (QOL), and mucosal healing. Although partial enteral nutrition (PEN), exclusive enteral nutritional (EEN), and anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNF) therapy all improve symptoms, the comparative effectiveness of these approaches to improve QOL and achieve mucosal healing has not been assessed prospectively.
Methods: In a prospective study of children initiating PEN, EEN, or anti-TNF therapy for Crohn's disease, we compared clinical outcomes using the Pediatric Crohn's Disease Activity Index (PCDAI), QOL (IMPACT score), and mucosal healing as estimated by fecal calprotectin (FCP). PCDAI, IMPACT, FCP, and diet (prompted 24-h recall) were measured at baseline and after 8 weeks of therapy.
Results: We enrolled 90 children with active Crohn's disease (PCDAI, 33.7 ± 13.7; and FCP, 976 ± 754), of whom 52 were treated with anti-TNF, 22 with EEN, and 16 with PEN plus ad lib diet. Clinical response (PCDAI reduction ≥15 or final PCDAI ≤10) was achieved by 64% on PEN, 88% EEN, and 84% anti-TNF (test for trend P = 0.08). FCP ≤250 μg/g was achieved with PEN in 14%, EEN 45%, and anti-TNF 62% (test for trend P = 0.001). Improvement in overall QOL was not statistically significantly different between the 3 groups (P = 0.86). However, QOL improvement was the greatest with EEN in the body image (P = 0.03) domain and with anti-TNF in the emotional domain (P = 0.04).
Conclusions: Although PEN improved clinical symptoms, EEN and anti-TNF were more effective for decreasing mucosal inflammation and improving specific aspects of QOL.