What is the medical approach to treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

Updated: Oct 17, 2017
  • Author: William A Rowe, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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The medical approach for patients with IBD is symptomatic care (ie, relief of symptoms) and mucosal healing following a stepwise approach to medication, with escalation of the medical regimen until a response is achieved (“step-up” or “stepwise” approach), such as the following:

  • Step I – Aminosalicylates (oral, enema, suppository formulations): For treating flares and maintaining remission; more effective in UC than in CD

  • Step IA – Antibiotics: Used sparingly in UC (limited efficacy, increased risk for antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis); in CD, most commonly used for perianal disease, fistulas, intra-abdominal inflammatory masses

  • Step II – Corticosteroids (intravenous, oral, topical, rectal): For acute disease flares only

  • Step III – Immunomodulators: Effective for steroid-sparing action in refractory disease; primary treatment for fistulas and maintenance of remission in patients intolerant of or not responsive to aminosalicylates

  • Step IV – Clinical trial agents: Tend to be disease-specific (ie, an agent works for CD but not for UC, or vice versa)

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