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Maintaining remission in Crohn’s disease post surgery: what can we learn from Cochrane?


Surgery is a vital pillar in the management of Crohn’s disease and medical options for prevention of recurrence after surgery are a key consideration. The main classes of effective induction therapies have very different efficacy data for maintenance and this is more pronounced in the postsurgical setting.

In this review article, the up-to-date Cochrane reviews on the topic are presented, including a network meta-analysis. The Cochrane evidence shows a high relapse rate in the first 5 years after surgery with placebo or no treatment. The reviews demonstrate that 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) agents are probably more effective than placebo on pairwise and network meta-analysis, with moderate certainty evidence of a number needed to treat (NNT) of 13. The Cochrane evidence demonstrates that adalimumab may be more effective than placebo on pairwise and network meta-analysis, with low certainty evidence of an NNT of 2. Thiopurine analogues may be effective on pairwise analysis, but may not be effective on network meta-analysis. There was no evidence to support the use of any other agent but these findings are of low and very low certainty.

It is proposed that clinicians should consider adalimumab, 5-ASA and thiopurine analogue agents based on the findings of the Cochrane synthesis. The use of the evidence, including the Grading of Recomendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations (GRADE) certainty and magnitude of effect data, can support discussions with patients. Future research is needed to consider other therapies that are effective in medically induced maintenance given the low certainty of evidence limiting conclusions, either supporting or refuting their use.


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