Recommendations

People have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their care, as described in your care.

Making decisions using NICE guidelines explains how we use words to show the strength (or certainty) of our recommendations, and has information about prescribing medicines (including off‑label use), professional guidelines, standards and laws (including on consent and mental capacity), and safeguarding.

All recommendations relate to adults, children and young people unless otherwise specified. In this guideline, the term 'adults' is used to describe people who are aged 18 years or older, and 'children' those who are aged 11 years or younger. 'Young people' describes those who are aged 12 to 17 years.

1.1 Patient information and support

1.1.1 Ensure that information and advice about Crohn's disease:

  • is age appropriate

  • is of the appropriate cognitive and literacy level, and

  • meets the cultural and linguistic needs of the local community. [2012]

1.1.2 Discuss treatment options and monitoring with the person with Crohn's disease, and/or their parent or carer if appropriate, and within the multidisciplinary team. Apply the principles outlined in patient experience in adult NHS services (NICE guideline CG138). [2012]

1.1.3 Discuss the possible nature, frequency and severity of side effects of drug treatment[1] with people with Crohn's disease, and/or their parents or carers if appropriate. [2012]

1.1.4 Give all people with Crohn's disease, and/or their parents or carers if appropriate, information, advice and support in line with published NICE guidance on:

  • smoking cessation

  • patient experience

  • medicines adherence

  • fertility. [2012]

1.1.5 Give people with Crohn's disease, and/or their parents or carers if appropriate, additional information on the following when appropriate:

  • possible delay of growth and puberty in children and young people

  • diet and nutrition

  • fertility and sexual relationships

  • prognosis

  • side effects of their treatment

  • cancer risk

  • surgery

  • care of young people in transition between paediatric and adult services

  • contact details for support groups. [2012]

1.1.6 Offer adults, children and young people, and/or their parents or carers, age‑appropriate multidisciplinary support to deal with any concerns about the disease and its treatment, including concerns about body image, living with a chronic illness, and attending school and higher education. [2012]

1.2 Inducing remission in Crohn's disease

Monotherapy

1.2.1 Offer monotherapy with a conventional glucocorticosteroid (prednisolone, methylprednisolone or intravenous hydrocortisone) to induce remission in people with a first presentation or a single inflammatory exacerbation of Crohn's disease in a 12‑month period. [2012]

1.2.2 Consider enteral nutrition as an alternative to a conventional glucocorticosteroid to induce remission for:

  • children in whom there is concern about growth or side effects, and

  • young people in whom there is concern about growth. [2012]

1.2.3 In people with one or more of distal ileal, ileocaecal or right‑sided colonic disease[2] who decline, cannot tolerate or in whom a conventional glucocorticosteroid is contraindicated, consider budesonide[3] for a first presentation or a single inflammatory exacerbation in a 12‑month period. Explain that budesonide is less effective than a conventional glucocorticosteroid but may have fewer side effects. [2012]

1.2.4 In people who decline, cannot tolerate or in whom glucocorticosteroid treatment is contraindicated, consider 5‑aminosalicylate (5‑ASA) treatment[4] for a first presentation or a single inflammatory exacerbation in a 12‑month period. Explain that 5‑ASA is less effective than a conventional glucocorticosteroid or budesonide but may have fewer side effects than a conventional glucocorticosteroid. [2012]

1.2.5 Do not offer budesonide or 5‑ASA treatment for severe presentations or exacerbations. [2012]

1.2.6 Do not offer azathioprine, mercaptopurine or methotrexate as monotherapy to induce remission. [2012]

Add‑on treatment

1.2.7 Consider adding azathioprine or mercaptopurine[5] to a conventional glucocorticosteroid or budesonide[3] to induce remission of Crohn's disease if:

  • there are two or more inflammatory exacerbations in a 12‑month period, or

  • the glucocorticosteroid dose cannot be tapered. [2012]

1.2.8 Assess thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) activity before offering azathioprine or mercaptopurine[5]. Do not offer azathioprine or mercaptopurine if TPMT activity is deficient (very low or absent). Consider azathioprine or mercaptopurine at a lower dose if TPMT activity is below normal but not deficient (according to local laboratory reference values). [2012]

1.2.9 Consider adding methotrexate[6],[7] to a conventional glucocorticosteroid or budesonide[3] to induce remission in people who cannot tolerate azathioprine or mercaptopurine, or in whom TPMT activity is deficient, if:

  • there are two or more inflammatory exacerbations in a 12‑month period, or

  • the glucocorticosteroid dose cannot be tapered. [2012]

1.2.10 Monitor the effects of azathioprine, mercaptopurine[5] and methotrexate[6],[7] as advised in the current online version of the British national formulary (BNF)[8] or British national formulary for children (BNFC). Monitor for neutropenia in those taking azathioprine or mercaptopurine even if they have normal TPMT activity. [2012]

1.2.11 Ensure that there are documented local safety monitoring policies and procedures (including audit) for adults, children and young people receiving treatment that needs monitoring. Nominate a member of staff to act on abnormal results and communicate with GPs and people with Crohn's disease and/or their parents or carers, if appropriate. [2012]

Infliximab and adalimumab

The recommendations in the following section (1.2.12 to 1.2.13 and 1.2.15 to 1.2.20) are from infliximab and adalimumab for the treatment of Crohn's disease (NICE technology appraisal guidance 187).

1.2.12 Infliximab and adalimumab, within their licensed indications, are recommended as treatment options for adults with severe active Crohn's disease (see 1.2.18) whose disease has not responded to conventional therapy (including immunosuppressive and/or corticosteroid treatments), or who are intolerant of or have contraindications to conventional therapy. Infliximab or adalimumab should be given as a planned course of treatment until treatment failure (including the need for surgery), or until 12 months after the start of treatment, whichever is shorter. People should then have their disease reassessed (see 1.2.16) to determine whether ongoing treatment is still clinically appropriate. [2012]

1.2.13 Treatment as described in 1.2.12 should normally be started with the less expensive drug (taking into account drug administration costs, required dose and product price per dose). This may need to be varied for individual patients because of differences in the method of administration and treatment schedules. [2012]

1.2.14 When a person with Crohn's disease is starting infliximab or adalimumab (in line with recommendations 1.2.12, 1.2.15, 1.2.17 and 1.2.20), discuss options of:

  • monotherapy with one of these drugs or

  • combined therapy (either infliximab or adalimumab, combined with an immunosuppressant)

    and tell the person there is uncertainty about the comparative effectiveness and long‑term adverse effects of monotherapy and combined therapy. [new 2016]

1.2.15 Infliximab, within its licensed indication, is recommended as a treatment option for people with active fistulising Crohn's disease whose disease has not responded to conventional therapy (including antibiotics, drainage and immunosuppressive treatments), or who are intolerant of or have contraindications to conventional therapy. Infliximab should be given as a planned course of treatment until treatment failure (including the need for surgery) or until 12 months after the start of treatment, whichever is shorter. People should then have their disease reassessed (see 1.2.16) to determine whether ongoing treatment is still clinically appropriate. [2012]

1.2.16 Treatment with infliximab or adalimumab (see 1.2.12 and 1.2.15) should only be continued if there is clear evidence of ongoing active disease as determined by clinical symptoms, biological markers and investigation, including endoscopy if necessary. Specialists should discuss the risks and benefits of continued treatment with patients and consider a trial withdrawal from treatment for all patients who are in stable clinical remission. People who continue treatment with infliximab or adalimumab should have their disease reassessed at least every 12 months to determine whether ongoing treatment is still clinically appropriate. People whose disease relapses after treatment is stopped should have the option to start treatment again. [2012]

1.2.17 Infliximab, within its licensed indication, is recommended for the treatment of people aged 6–17 years with severe active Crohn's disease whose disease has not responded to conventional therapy (including corticosteroids, immunomodulators and primary nutrition therapy), or who are intolerant of or have contraindications to conventional therapy. The need to continue treatment should be reviewed at least every 12 months. [2012]

1.2.18 For the purposes of this guidance, severe active Crohn's disease is defined as very poor general health and one or more symptoms such as weight loss, fever, severe abdominal pain and usually frequent (3–4 or more) diarrhoeal stools daily. People with severe active Crohn's disease may or may not develop new fistulae or have extra‑intestinal manifestations of the disease. This clinical definition normally, but not exclusively, corresponds to a Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) score of 300 or more, or a Harvey‑Bradshaw score of 8 to 9 or above. [2012]

1.2.19 When using the CDAI and Harvey‑Bradshaw Index, healthcare professionals should take into account any physical, sensory or learning disabilities, or communication difficulties that could affect the scores and make any adjustments they consider appropriate. [2012]

1.2.20 Treatment with infliximab or adalimumab should only be started and reviewed by clinicians with experience of TNF inhibitors and of managing Crohn's disease. [2012]

1.3 Maintaining remission in Crohn's disease

1.3.1 Discuss with people with Crohn's disease, and/or their parents or carers if appropriate, options for managing their disease when they are in remission, including both no treatment and treatment. The discussion should include the risk of inflammatory exacerbations (with and without drug treatment) and the potential side effects of drug treatment. Record the person's views in their notes. [2012]

1.3.2 Offer colonoscopic surveillance in line with colonoscopic surveillance for prevention of colorectal cancer in people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or adenomas (NICE guideline CG118). [2012]

Follow‑up during remission for those who choose not to receive maintenance treatment

1.3.3 When people choose not to receive maintenance treatment:

  • discuss and agree with them, and/or their parents or carers if appropriate, plans for follow‑up, including the frequency of follow‑up and who they should see

  • ensure they know which symptoms may suggest a relapse and should prompt a consultation with their healthcare professional (most frequently, unintended weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, general ill‑health)

  • ensure they know how to access the healthcare system if they experience a relapse

  • discuss the importance of not smoking. [2012]

Maintenance treatment for those who choose this option

1.3.4 Offer azathioprine or mercaptopurine[5] as monotherapy to maintain remission when previously used with a conventional glucocorticosteroid or budesonide to induce remission. [2012]

1.3.5 Consider azathioprine or mercaptopurine[5] to maintain remission in people who have not previously received these drugs (particularly those with adverse prognostic factors such as early age of onset, perianal disease, glucocorticosteroid use at presentation and severe presentations). [2012]

1.3.6 Consider methotrexate[6],[7] to maintain remission only in people who:

  • needed methotrexate to induce remission, or

  • have tried but did not tolerate azathioprine or mercaptopurine for maintenance or

  • have contraindications to azathioprine or mercaptopurine (for example, deficient TPMT activity or previous episodes of pancreatitis). [2012]

1.3.7 Do not offer a conventional glucocorticosteroid or budesonide to maintain remission. [2012]

See recommendations 1.2.10 and 1.2.11 for guidance on monitoring the effects of azathioprine, mercaptopurine and methotrexate.

See recommendation 1.2.16 for when to continue infliximab or adalimumab during remission.

1.4 Maintaining remission in Crohn's disease after surgery

1.4.1 Consider azathioprine or mercaptopurine[5] to maintain remission after surgery in people with adverse prognostic factors such as:

  • more than one resection, or

  • previously complicated or debilitating disease (for example, abscess, involvement of adjacent structures, fistulising or penetrating disease). [2012]

1.4.2 Consider 5‑ASA treatment[4] to maintain remission after surgery. [2012]

1.4.3 Do not offer budesonide or enteral nutrition to maintain remission after surgery. [2012]

1.5 Surgery

Crohn's disease limited to the distal ileum

1.5.1 Consider surgery as an alternative to medical treatment early in the course of the disease for people whose disease is limited to the distal ileum, taking into account the following:

  • benefits and risks of medical treatment and surgery

  • risk of recurrence after surgery[9]

  • individual preferences and any personal or cultural considerations.

    Record the person's views in their notes. [2012]

1.5.2 Consider surgery early in the course of the disease or before or early in puberty for children and young people whose disease is limited to the distal ileum and who have:

  • growth impairment despite optimal medical treatment and/or

  • refractory disease.

    Discuss treatment options within the multidisciplinary team and with the person's parent or carer and, if appropriate, the child or young person. [2012]

Managing strictures

1.5.3 Consider balloon dilation particularly in people with a single stricture that is short, straight and accessible by colonoscopy. [2012]

1.5.4 Discuss the benefits and risks of balloon dilation and surgical interventions for managing strictures[10] with:

  • the person with Crohn's disease and/or their parent or carer if appropriate and

  • a surgeon and

  • a gastroenterologist. [2012]

1.5.5 Take into account the following factors when assessing options for managing a stricture:

  • whether medical treatment has been optimised

  • the number and extent of previous resections

  • the rapidity of past recurrence (if appropriate)

  • the potential for further resections

  • the consequence of short bowel syndrome

  • the person's preference, and how their lifestyle and cultural background might affect management. [2012]

1.5.6 Ensure that abdominal surgery is available for managing complications or failure of balloon dilation. [2012]

1.6 Monitoring for osteopenia and assessing fracture risk

Refer to the NICE guideline on osteoporosis: assessing the risk of fragility fracture (NICE guideline CG146) for recommendations on assessing the risk of fragility fracture in adults. Crohn's disease is a cause of secondary osteoporosis.

1.6.1 Do not routinely monitor for changes in bone mineral density in children and young people. [2012]

1.6.2 Consider monitoring for changes in bone mineral density in children and young people with risk factors, such as low body mass index (BMI), low trauma fracture or continued or repeated glucocorticosteroid use. [2012]

1.7 Conception and pregnancy

1.7.1 Give information about the possible effects of Crohn's disease on pregnancy, including the potential risks and benefits of medical treatment and the possible effects of Crohn's disease on fertility. [2012]

1.7.2 Ensure effective communication and information‑sharing across specialties (for example, primary care, obstetrics and gastroenterology) in the care of pregnant women with Crohn's disease. [2012]



[1] Appendices L and M of the full guideline contain observational data on adverse events associated with 5-ASA treatment and immunosuppressives.

[2] See recommendations 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 for when to consider surgery early in the course of the disease for people whose disease is limited to the distal ileum.

[3] Although use is common in UK clinical practice, at the time of publication (October 2012), budesonide did not have a UK marketing authorisation specifically for children and young people. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information. Licensing arrangements remained unchanged when the guideline was updated (May 2016).

[4] Although use is common in UK clinical practice, at the time of publication (October 2012) mesalazine, olsalazine and balsalazide did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information. Licensing arrangements remained unchanged when the guideline was updated (May 2016).

[5] Although use is common in UK clinical practice, at the time of publication (October 2012) azathioprine and mercaptopurine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information. Licensing arrangements remained unchanged when the guideline was updated (May 2016).

[6] Although use is common in UK clinical practice, at the time of publication (October 2012) methotrexate did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information. Licensing arrangements remained unchanged when the guideline was updated (May 2016).

[7] Follow BNF/BNFC cautions on prescribing methotrexate.

[8] Advice on monitoring of immunosuppressives can be found in the BNF/BNFC. The gastroenterology chapter and other relevant sections should be consulted.

[9] Appendix N of the full guideline contains observational data on recurrence rates after surgery.

[10] Appendix O of the full guideline contains observational data on efficacy, safety, quality of life and time to recurrence for balloon dilation and surgery for stricture.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)