Understanding of how best to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has evolved over the last ten years. Evidence now suggests that the most effective therapy early in the course of Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) involves the use of immune suppressing medications such as the anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor (anti-TNF) agents infliximab, adalimumab, and certolizumab. However, many CD and UC patients still ultimately require surgery despite the use of these medications. Side effects of the anti-TNF agents include increased risk of infections due to their effect on the immune system. Little is known about how use of these medications near the time of surgery may affect patients' risks of infection or other post-operative complications. The only available studies on this topic have given conflicting results. These studies have been limited by the fact that they have been small in size and retrospective. Retrospective studies primarily involve chart review as the method of identifying potential risk factors for infections and other complications after they have already occurred. This method limits both the type and quality of information/data that can be collected. The conflicting results have led to variance in practice patterns with regards to management of anti-TNF agents, the timing of surgery, and even the types of surgery.
By enrolling patients at the time of their surgery, collecting extensive information may be possible than previously studied on potential risk factors for both infectious and non-infectious complications following surgery. Risk factors to be studied will include individual patient characteristics, disease characteristics, surgical methods, novel characteristics of CT scans and MRIs and extensive medication exposures. The primary objective is to determine if exposure to anti-TNF agents prior to surgery increases the risk of infection post-operatively. And evaluate exposure to anti-TNF agents by both patient history of use and measurement of anti-TNF drug levels at the time of surgery. Monitoring of drug levels at the time of surgery has never been utilized in this way to evaluate the risk of anti-TNF agents in IBD. However, this has been done to assess the risk of other medications in different diseases.
If anti-TNF agents are found to pose a risk for infectious or non-infectious outcomes in IBD patients undergoing surgery, change maybe needed in the way these medications are used around the time of surgery. Additionally, by collecting comprehensive information on other potential risk factors besides medication use patients at greatest risk for bad outcomes can be identified and take protective measures when possible. The aims of this study address the CCFA challenge to better define the risks of medical and surgical therapies to improve the quality of care of IBD patients undergoing surgery.