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Summary

Background

Fistulae will develop in approximately one-third of patients with Crohn's disease. With an expected spontaneous healing rate of only 10%, fistulizing Crohn's disease requires a comprehensive strategy with a medical and possible surgical approach.

Aim

To summarize the current literature evaluating various medical options for treating patients with fistulizing Crohn's disease.

Methods

A literature review was conducted using PubMed (search terms: Crohn's disease and fistula) and manual search of references among the identified studies and relevant review papers to identify papers that present data on medical treatment of fistulizing Crohn's disease.

Results

The first line of medical therapy remains antibiotics (metronidazole and ciprofloxacin). Mercaptopurine and azathioprine are medications that are effective in treating fistulizing Crohn's disease. The current gold standard of medical treatment to induce and maintain remission for fistulizing Crohn's disease is infliximab. Used as induction therapy, infliximab produced a 62% clinical response, and a complete closure rate of 46%. A maintenance therapy trial demonstrated at 54 weeks, 46% of patients receiving infliximab continued to respond to treatment, compared with 23% in the placebo group (P = 0.001).

Conclusion

Further research to find new therapies and to improve our existing medical treatment of fistulizing Crohn's disease is required.