AGA Technical Review on the Medical Management of Moderate to Severe Luminal and Perianal Fistulizing Crohn's Disease

Gastroenterology. 2021 Jun;160(7):2512-2556.e9.doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.04.023.

Siddharth Singh 1, Deborah Proctor 2, Frank I Scott 3, Yngve Falck-Ytter 4, Joseph D Feuerstein 5


Author information

  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Division of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
  • 2Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
  • 3Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado.
  • 4Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • 5Division of Gastroenterology and Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.


The incidence and prevalence of Crohn's disease (CD) is rising globally. Patients with moderate to severe CD are at high risk for needing surgery and hospitalization and for developing disease-related complications, corticosteroid dependence, and serious infections. Optimal management of outpatients with moderate to severe luminal and/or fistulizing (including perianal) CD often requires the use of immunomodulator (thiopurines, methotrexate) and/or biologic therapies, including tumor necrosis factor-α antagonists, vedolizumab, or ustekinumab, either as monotherapy or in combination (with immunomodulators) to mitigate these risks. Decisions about optimal drug therapy in moderate to severe CD are complex, with limited guidance on comparative efficacy and safety of different treatments, leading to considerable practice variability. Since the last iteration of these guidelines published in 2013, significant advances have been made in the field, including the regulatory approval of 2 new biologic agents, vedolizumab and ustekinumab. Therefore, the American Gastroenterological Association prioritized updating clinical guidelines on this topic. To inform the clinical guidelines, this technical review was completed in accordance with the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) framework. The review addressed the following focused questions (in adult outpatients with moderate to severe luminal CD): overall and comparative efficacy of different medications for induction and maintenance of remission in patients with or without prior exposure to tumor necrosis factor-α antagonists, comparative efficacy and safety of biologic monotherapy vs combination therapy with immunomodulators, comparative efficacy of a top-down (upfront use of biologics and/or immunomodulator therapy) vs step-up treatment strategy (acceleration to biologic and/or immunomodulator therapy only after failure of mesalamine), and the role of corticosteroids and mesalamine for induction and/or maintenance of remission. Finally, in adult outpatients with moderate to severe fistulizing CD, this review addressed the efficacy of pharmacologic interventions for achieving fistula and the role of adjunctive antibiotics without clear evidence of active infection.



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