From the Journals

Strictures in Crohn’s: Balloon dilation avoids later surgery



Endoscopic balloon dilation (EBD) is an effective treatment option for strictures of the small bowel in patients with Crohn’s disease, based on a nationwide Danish cohort study.

Approximately three out of four patients who underwent an EBD were spared subsequent small bowel surgery. Similar outcomes were seen across primary and postsurgical strictures, reported lead author Mads Damsgaard Wewer, BSc, of the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues.

“Retrospective studies investigating EBD are available with variable follow-up periods; however, a nationwide study to demonstrate more precise durability of EBD in unselected patients is lacking,” the investigators wrote in European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Their aim was to understand the use of EBD and the need for redilation and surgery. This retrospective study used a cohort of adult patients with Crohn’s disease who had strictures of the small bowel during a 19-year period.

The population comprised 9,737 patients with incident Crohn’s disease, among whom 90 (1%) underwent EBD during a median 8.2-year follow-up period. Of these 90 patients, 49 had primary strictures, while the remaining 41 had postsurgical strictures.

In the primary stricture group, 59% of patients had one EBD procedure and did not require subsequent small bowel surgery, 14% of patients required redilation but no further surgery, and 27% of patients required small bowel surgery after dilation. In this same group, the 1-, 3-, and 5-year cumulative incidence rates of EBD failure were 19%, 21%, and 25%, respectively. Of note, just 8% of patients with primary stricture who were treated with EBD ultimately required enterotomy, compared with 16% of patients with primary stricture who underwent small bowel resection without first attempting EBD.

In the postsurgical stricture group, 49% of patients underwent one EBD procedure without need for another small bowel surgery, 27% needed redilation but avoided surgery, and 24% required surgery after dilation. One-, three-, and five-year cumulative incidence rates of EBD failure in this group trended slightly higher than the primary stricture group over time, at 19%, 25%, and 29%, respectively.

The researchers noted that 25% of patients required small bowel surgery after EBD, which falls below rates of 29% to 33% reported by recent studies. They explained that this edge may be “partly explained by the careful selection of patients (with few and short strictures) receiving EBD,” as well as exclusion of patients with strictures outside the small intestine. They concluded that, “... small bowel-related EBD is an effective treatment option, and one that could be offered to more patients with Crohn’s disease in the future.”

‘Reassuring study’

David H. Bruining, MD, associate professor of medicine and section head of the inflammatory bowel disease interest group at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., called it a “reassuring study that confirms previous data regarding the efficacy of endoscopic balloon dilation of Crohn’s disease strictures.”

Dr. Bruining suggested in an interview that the findings, while drawn from Denmark, can be applied to a U.S. population; he also noted the “impressive” size of the study, as well the duration of follow-up, which extended up to 19 years.

EBD is “gaining more traction,” Dr. Bruining said, “as far as the belief among both referring physicians, and gastroenterologists, that it is effective, and it is safe. I think that body of literature is growing, and it’s more widely established at this point.”

Dr. Bruining noted that EBD should be reserved for patients who have short strictures no longer than 4-5 mm “without associated internal penetrating disease.”

In the future, such patients may have even more treatment options, Dr. Bruining predicted. New antifibrotic medications are “on the horizon,” which could one day be used with or without EBD to address fibrotic strictures in Crohn’s disease. Dr. Bruining is a part of the Stenosis Therapy and Anti-Fibrotic Research (STAR) Consortium, a group that aims to develop this emerging approach. He and his colleagues recently published a review of research into antifibrotic therapy to date.


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