Management of refractory inflammatory bowel disease

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2022 Jul 1;38(4):347-357.doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000849.


Maté Gergely 1Eric Prado 2Parakkal Deepak 1


Author information

1Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Center, Division of Gastroenterology.

2Division of Internal Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Purpose of review: Nearly one-third of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) do not achieve remission despite our best therapies. When this happens, it is critical to understand the reason for treatment failure. Once nonresponse is confirmed, these patients should be referred to an IBD centre for multidisciplinary care. This review will discuss the remaining treatment options, including escalation of biologics to unlicensed doses, combination biologics, nonvalidated therapies and surgical options. It will additionally provide updates in the management of acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC).

Recent findings: There is an increasing interest in combination biologics to treat refractory IBD, although data supporting its safety and effectiveness are limited. The use of hyperbaric oxygen, mesenchymal stem cell therapy and dietary interventions also show early promise in this area. Studies have additionally focused on personalized therapy to identify aggressive phenotypes and predict treatment response in these challenging patients. In ASUC, infliximab and cyclosporine remain mainstays of treatment, and tofacitinib shows promise as a salvage therapy.

Summary: Refractory IBD is common, yet large knowledge gaps remain. Recent and ongoing studies have focused on medical, surgical and dietary approaches with mixed success. Larger prospective studies are desperately needed to address this complex issue.



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