New patients: should children be treated differently?

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in childhood is often diagnosed at a vulnerable time of growth and development, and is recognized as one of the most significant chronic gastrointestinal diseases to affect children. Children and adolescents with IBD are at increased risk of complications as a result of malnutrition secondary to reduced appetite, increased metabolism and decreased absorptive capacity. The most common and serious complications are growth failure, bone demineralization and impaired psychosocial development. These issues add to the complexity of childhood IBD management and it is essential that adequate medical management is in place to prevent these long-term complications. Current treatment options include 5-aminosalicylic acid, antibiotics, corticosteroids, nutritional therapy and immunomodulators used to induce and maintain remission; some are specifically employed to maintain a steroid free long-term remission. As a general rule, long-term corticosteroid use should be avoided to reduce the risk of bone demineralization and growth failure. Newer treatment options such as infliximab have been shown to be effective for inducing and prolonging remission of Crohn's disease in children and paediatric use of infliximab is likely to increase in the near future. A recent case report, involving a 15-year old boy presenting with abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea, illustrates the difficulty in correctly diagnosing IBD in children and the need for optimizing therapy to achieve treatment success.

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