There is no known cure for Crohn's disease (CD), but a better understanding of the evidence base of both established treatments (such as enteral nutrition, corticosteroids, 5-aminosalicylates, immunosuppressive agents) and emerging novel treatments (such as the anti-tumour necrosis factor-α (anti-TNF-α) agents, infliximab and adalimumab) provide opportunities to improve and maintain the quality of life of children with the disease.
This article provides an overview of the evidence base of current medical treatments that are used to induce and maintain remission in CD. Exclusive enteral nutrition is recommended as the first line treatment for the induction of remission in paediatric CD. Corticosteroids are also effective for inducing remission but may be associated with significant adverse events. Patients with chronically active CD may benefit from immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprine and methotrexate.
Infliximab is effective for inducing remission in patients who continue to have significant active disease despite the use of conventional treatments. Adalimumab may be indicated for patients who develop severe allergic reaction to infliximab or those who initially respond to infliximab but subsequently lose their response. Treatments that have been shown to be effective for the maintenance of remission include azathioprine, methotrexate, infliximab, and adalimumab.
Recent evidence also suggest that long term enteral nutritional supplementation with patients taking about half of their daily calorie requirements as enteral nutrition may be an effective strategy for the maintenance of remission in CD. The available evidence does not support the use of corticosteroids or 5-aminosalicylates as maintenance therapy for CD.