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Calming Crohn’s with New Infusion Therapies

Posted by Michael Schmidt, MD
Gastroenterologist, Holy Name Medical Center

Michael Schmidt, MD, Gastroenterologist, Holy Name Medical Center

Some relatively new infusion therapies for Crohn's disease are cause for optimism in stopping the progression of this inflammatory bowel disease and in helping patients better manage this chronic condition.

Crohn's disease can affect the length of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, with most cases concentrated in the small or large intestine (colon) or both. Inflammation of the digestive tract can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition, as well as other symptoms.

Crohn's can be painful and debilitating, and there is no cure. The disease can have a big emotional impact on those afflicted as well, as the symptoms can flare up at inconvenient and embarrassing times.

Though Crohn's can strike at any age, it is most often diagnosed before the age of 35. Whites, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, and those who have family members with the disease are more prone to Crohn's. It also can be exacerbated by smoking and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Infusion Therapies Stop Inflammation

Steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and immune modulators that calm the immune system (azathioprine, 6MP and methotrexate) were frequently used to treat Crohn's in the past, but were short-term solutions. They addressed the symptoms but often did little to halt the advance of the disease.

Fortunately, there are new therapies to decrease inflammation and slow the progression of Crohn's. Many patients greatly benefit from IV infusions of biologic drugs that have been approved for the treatment of the disease, such as Remicade, Stelara and Entyvio. These therapies are given at different intervals and deliver the medication to calm and interrupt the inflammatory cascade that can occur in a patient's GI tract. We are starting many people on these infusions earlier, rather than later, as they have been shown to be effective in halting the progression of Crohn's.

Infusions are a relatively new approach that offer a marked improvement in treatment. Many people are doing much better for longer periods of time; their symptoms are improving and they're avoiding surgery.

Holy Name Medical Center recently opened a new contemporary, state-of-the-art Infusion Center, where patients can receive these same-day treatments. See below for more information.

A New Era in Treatment

The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) is on the rise. The chronic nature of Crohn's can cause emotional and physical stress for patients. Therefore, maintaining a good nutrition plan and being cognizant of stress and mental health also are important.

We've entered a new era of treatment with new therapies and understanding of the disease. These provide hope for patients so they can better manage the disease and their lives.

Dr. Michael Schmidt is a gastroenterologist at Holy Name Medical Center with offices in Teaneck. To make an appointment, call 201-837-9449.

Holy Name's Infusion Center

Patients at the new Infusion Center receive treatment within spacious, private areas equipped with lounger chairs and other comfortable amenities. The infusion team of physicians, nurses and pharmacists works closely with patients' own personal physicians to provide seamless, accurate care. The center is open weekdays and some weekends. For more information, call 201-541-5939.