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Summary

Aim:  To determine the efficacy of infliximab in the treatment of chronic refractory pouchitis complicated by fistulae following ileal pouch-anal anastomosis for ulcerative colitis.

Methods:  This open study included seven patients (four females, three males) with chronic refractory pouchitis complicated by fistulae. Pouchitis was diagnosed by clinical, endoscopic and histological criteria. The sites of the fistulae were as follows: pouch-bladder in one, vaginal in three, perianal in two, and both vaginal and perianal in one. Extra-intestinal manifestations (erythema nodosum, arthralgia) were present in four patients. Crohn's disease was carefully excluded in all patients after re-evaluation of the history, re-examination of the original proctocolectomy specimen and examination of the proximal small bowel. All patients had been treated with antibiotics and three with steroids. Patients received infliximab, 5 mg/kg, at 0, 2 and 6 weeks. Azathioprine (2.5 mg/kg) was also started for all patients as bridge therapy. Clinical response was classified as complete, partial or no response. Fistulae closure was classified as complete (cessation of fistulae drainage and total closure of all fistulae), partial (a reduction in the number, size, drainage or discomfort associated with fistulae) or no closure. The pouchitis disease activity index and quality of life were also used as outcome measures.

Results:  Clinically, all patients improved. At the 10-week follow-up, six of the seven patients had a complete clinical response, and five had complete fistulae closure. At the 10-week follow-up, the median pouchitis disease activity index decreased from 12 (baseline) (range, 10–15) to 5 (range, 3–8); the median quality of life decreased from 37 points (range, 33–40) to 14 (range, 9–18). Erythema nodosum and arthralgia showed complete remission soon after the first infusion of infliximab.

Conclusions:  These preliminary results indicate that infliximab may be recommended for the treatment of refractory pouchitis complicated by fistulae following ileal pouch-anal anastomosis for ulcerative colitis.