Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the Elderly Patient: Challenges and Opportunities

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Abstract

The population of older patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) continues to grow, partly reflecting the aging global population in general. The debilitating effects of IBD compound age-related decrements in health and functional capacity, and make the medical management of older patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis distinctly challenging to clinicians. Here, we review the recent literature describing the pharmacologic management of IBD in this population, with focus on the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of common treatment options, such as steroids, immunomodulators, tumor necrosis factor–α antagonists, and integrin antagonists; surgical interventions in older patients are also discussed. Few studies have systematically and prospectively evaluated the clinical challenges in the medical management of IBD in this patient population, leaving a limited evidence base to which clinicians can turn to for guidance. Treatment patterns may thus be suboptimal. For example, prolonged steroid use in the elderly was found to be common, causing significant morbidity from side effects in a particularly vulnerable population. Finally, within the context of a limited evidence base, we discuss common treatment scenarios to define the parameters within which physicians can individualize care for older patients with IBD. Overall, older patients with IBD are at higher risk of adverse events and less treatment responsiveness compared with younger patients, underscoring the need for future studies to fully characterize appropriate treatment courses for this population.

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