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Summary

Background

Controversy exists surrounding the optimal treatment for inducing remission in active Crohn’s disease.

Aim

To review and update evidence on the effectiveness of enteral nutrition (EN) in treating active Crohn’s disease in children.

Methods

MEDLINE, EMBASE and The Cochrane Library (up to February 2007) were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) relevant to Crohn’s disease and EN in children.

Results

We included 11 RCTs (= 394). Seven RCTs (= 204) compared EN with corticosteroid therapy. On the basis of pooled results of four RCTs (n = 144), we found no significant difference in the remission rates between groups (relative risk, RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.7–1.4, random effect model). Four RCTs (= 190) compared two EN regimens. One of the four RCTs (= 50) revealed a significant increase in the percentage of patients achieving remission in the total EN group compared with the partial EN group (RR 2.7, 95% CI 1–7.4). Because of lack of data, formal pooling of results was not possible for many outcomes (e.g., time until remission, duration of remission, growth data).

Conclusions

Limited data suggest similar efficacy for EN and corticosteroids. As the number of patients needed to provide a definite answer is too large, future studies should focus on detailed outcome measurements including growth and quality of life.