Background and aims

Mucosal healing is regarded as a clinical endpoint of Crohn’s disease (CD), and transmural healing is correlated to the concept of deep remission. Current therapies to induce mucosal and transmural healing in CD are not satisfactory. Exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) is underestimated therapy and its value has not been fully evaluated. Our aim was to investigate the efficacy of oral EEN for inducing mucosal and transmural healing in CD patients.

Methods

This was a prospective, single-center, open-label study including diagnosed CD children and adults conducted between January 2015 and December 2016 in the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University. All patients were treated with oral EEN and underwent paired assessment at baseline and completion using C-reaction protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, platelets, hemoglobin, body mass index, CD activity index, simple endoscopic score for CD and bowel sonography. Azathioprine was combined to prevent relapse.

Results

In this prospective observational study, 29 CD patients with an average age of 28.9 years were identified. After oral EEN treatment, 23 patients (79%) achieved complete mucosal healing, and the mean time to reach mucosal healing was 123 days (ranged from 50 to 212 days). Although only five patients (17%) achieved transmural healing, a significant reduction was observed in bowel-wall thickness (9.41 ± 3.06 vs 4.97 ± 1.76 mm, P < 0.001) and a significant improvement was observed in complications (including fistulas, abscess, ascites, stricture) assessed by bowel sonography (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions

Oral EEN therapy is highly effective for inducing mucosal healing in CD patients. Both CD patients at active stage and those at clinical remission show excellent clinical response to oral EEN.

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