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Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Jun;100(6):1357-61.

Are patients with inflammatory bowel disease receiving optimal care?

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Division of Gastroenterology, Crohn's and Colitis Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Guidelines have been published as a framework for therapy of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The purpose of this study was to determine whether patients referred for a second opinion were receiving therapy in accordance with practice guidelines.


Patients with luminal IBD under the care of a gastroenterologist who sought a a second opinion at Brigham and Women's Hospital between January 2001 and April 2003 were enrolled in this study. Clinical information was obtained by direct patient interview at the time of initial patient visit and by a review of prior records. Data obtained included the diagnosis, clinical symptoms, prior medical therapy, preventive measures for metabolic bone disease, and colon-cancer screening.


The study population consisted of 67 consecutive patients: 21 with ulcerative colitis, 44 with Crohn's disease and 2 in whom the diagnosis of IBD could not be confirmed. Of the 65 patients with confirmed IBD, 56 patients had symptoms of active disease and 9 were asymptomatic. All analyses were carried out on the 56 patients with active disease. Of the 33 patients treated with aminosalicylates, 21 (64%) were not receiving maximal doses. Nine of 12 (75%) patients with distal ulcerative colitis were not receiving rectal aminosalicylate therapy. Within 6 months of their clinic visit, 35 patients had received corticosteroid therapy, and 27 (77%) patients had been treated with corticosteroids for greater than 3 months. In 16 of 27 (59%) there was no attempt to start steroid sparing medications such as 6-mercaptopurine (6MP), azathioprine, or infliximab. Of the 11 patients treated with either 6MP or azathioprine, 9 (82%) were suboptimally dosed without an attempt to increase dosage. Of the 27 patients on prolonged corticosteroid therapy 21 (78%) received inadequate treatment to prevent metabolic bone disease. Three of 9 patients (33%) meeting indications for surveillance colonoscopy for dysplasia had not undergone colonoscopy at the appropriate interval.


Patients with IBD often do not receive optimal medical therapy. In particular, there is suboptimal dosing of 5-ASA and immunomodulatory medications, prolonged use of corticosteroids, failure to use steroid-sparing agents, inadequate measures to prevent metabolic bone disease, and inadequate screening for colorectal cancer.

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