Background/aims: Several uncontrolled trials suggest that lymphapheresis improves the clinical course of patients with Crohn's disease; this study was designed to assess the efficacy of lymphapheresis in preventing early relapses of Crohn's disease in patients in clinical remission after steroid treatment for an acute attack.
Methods: Twenty-eight patients in clinical remission at the end of 3-7 weeks of steroid therapy were included in this randomized multicenter prospective trial. Before starting steroid tapering, patients were randomly assigned either to the lymphapheresis group (9 procedures within 4-5 weeks) or to the control group. The primary judgement criterion was the cumulated recurrence rate after steroid discontinuation.
Results: All the patients treated by lymphapheresis (12 of 12) were successfully withdrawn from prednisolone and only 10 of 15 in the control group (NS). At the end of the 18-month follow-up period, the cumulated relapse rate was 83% in the lymphapheresis group and 62% in the control group.
Conclusions: Although there was a trend towards a diminished incidence of corticosteroid dependence, lymphapheresis did not prevent the occurrence of early relapses.