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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 14, Suppl C, Pages 17C-22C

Steroid-Dependent Crohn’s Disease

William J Sandborn

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic, Division of Gastroenterology, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Placebo controlled trials have demonstrated that a tapering course of corticosteroids is an effective therapy for active Crohn’s disease. A populationbased study of 109 patients with Crohn’s disease undergoing their first course of corticosteroids showed that, at the end of one year, 44% of patients were steroid responsive, 36% were steroid dependent and 20% were steroid refractory. Side effects occur frequently during a four-month tapering course of corticosteroids, including moon face, acne, infection, ecchymoses, hypertension, hirsutism, petechial bleeding and striae. More serious side effects occur with long term use, including hypertension, diabetes, infection, osteonecrosis, osteoporosis, myopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and psychosis. Low dose corticosteroids, alternate-day corticosteroids and mesalamine (5-aminosalicylate) are not effective steroid-sparing agents in patients with Crohn’s disease. Controlled ileal release budesonide, 6 mg/day, is an effective steroid-sparing agent, but it does result in some decrease in adrenal function. Azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine and methotrexate are all effective steroidsparing agents, as is the humanized, anti-tumour necrosis factor monoclonal antibody, CDP571. A preliminary, uncontrolled study has suggested that the mouse/human chimeric monoclonal antibody infliximab may also be steroid sparing. Surgical resection is an effective strategy to reduce steroid use in the short to intermediate term, but postoperative reoccurrence of Crohn’s disease occurs frequently. Given the morbidity associated with prolonged corticosteroid use, medical and surgical treatment strategies to reduce steroid use should be employed routinely.