The clinical course of Crohn's disease in a Danish population-based inception cohort with more than 50 years of follow-up, 1962-2017

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2022 Jan;55(1):73-82. doi: 10.1111/apt.16615. Epub 2021 Sep 20.


Background: Few population-based studies have investigated the long-term prognosis of Crohn's disease (CD).

Aim: To determine the long-term natural disease course of CD with regard to surgery, cancer and mortality in a population-based cohort followed for more than 50 years.

Methods: All patients diagnosed with CD from 1962 to 1987 in Copenhagen County, Denmark were included in a population-based cohort. Information about surgeries, cancers and mortality was collected from patient files from 1962 to 1987 and from the Danish National Patient Registry, Cancer Registry, and from the Register of Causes of Death, 1987-2017. Patients were matched with individuals from the general population.

Results: A total of 373 patients were followed for a median of 33 years (range: 0-56 years). The cumulative probability of surgery 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years after diagnosis was 62% (CI 95%: 57%-67%), 71% (CI 95%: 66%-75%), 72% (CI 95%: 67%-76%), 74% (CI 95%: 69%-79%) and 74% (CI 95%: 69%-79%), respectively. A total of 142 patients (54%) were operated upon at least twice: 69 (26%) needing two surgeries and 73 (28%) needing three or more. Patients with CD were found to be at increased risk of intestinal (small bowel, rectum and anus) and extra-intestinal (respiratory organs and skin) cancer. All-cause mortality among CD patients was higher than among controls (RR: 1.22, CI 95%: 1.04-1.43), whereas mortality due to gastrointestinal cancer was not.

Conclusion: After 50 years of follow-up, 75% CD patients had undergone surgery, with most needing repeat surgery. The risk of intestinal and extra-intestinal cancers, as well as mortality, was higher among CD patients than the background population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Crohn Disease* / diagnosis
  • Crohn Disease* / epidemiology
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms*