Conference Coverage

Persistent fatigue plagues many IBD patients



Nearly two-thirds of patients with inflammatory bowel disease who initiate biologic therapy continue to experience persistent fatigue up to 1 year later, results from a prospective cohort study showed.

Dr. Nynke Z. Borren, a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital Crohn's and Colitis Center, Boston Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Nynke Z. Borren

“Fatigue is one of the most heard complaints in the clinic,” lead study author Nynke Z. Borren, MD, said in an interview at the annual Digestive Disease Week.® “In the past few years there has been more interest because we know there is a communication system between the gut and the brain. Some studies suggest that biologic therapy improves fatigue symptoms, but it’s really correlated with disease activity.”

In an effort to define the longitudinal trajectory of fatigue in IBD patients initiating treatment with infliximab, adalimumab, vedolizumab, or ustekinumab, Dr. Borren, a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center, Boston, and colleagues prospectively enrolled 206 patients with Crohn’s disease and 120 patients with ulcerative colitis. They used the seven-point fatigue question in the Short Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire (SIBDQ) to define fatigue. A score of four or less for this question was used to define fatigue. To validate this question, the researchers used two widely used questionnaires: the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy–Fatigue (FACIT-F), and the Multidimensional Fatigue inventory (MFI). Next, they used multivariable regression models to examine the independent association between attainment of clinical remission and the resolution of fatigue.

Of the 326 patients, 134 initiated biologic therapy with infliximab or adalimumab, 129 with vedolizumab, and 63 with ustekinumab. Nearly two-thirds of all patients (198, or 61%) reported significant fatigue at baseline, which was associated with female sex, depressive symptoms, and disturbed sleep (P less than .001). Those reporting significant fatigue at baseline also had higher disease activity scores, compared with those without fatigue (P less than .001).

Among the 198 patients who reported fatigue at baseline, 70% remained fatigued at week 14, while 63% remained fatigued at week 30, and 61% remained fatigued at week 54. Dr. Borren and associates observed that at each of these time points, achieving clinical remission was associated with threefold lower likelihood of remaining fatigued. However, 35% of patients who achieved clinical remission experienced persistent fatigue at week 14, compared with 37% of patients at week 30 and 35% of patients at week 54.

The researchers observed no significant differences between the different therapies in the proportion of patients who remained fatigued. In addition to disease activity, disturbed sleep at baseline was associated with persistent fatigue at week 14 (OR 9.7) and at week 30 (OR 3.7).

“We think that gut dysbiosis might be involved in inducing fatigue,” Dr. Borren said. “In the beginning, we thought that it might be due to ongoing inflammation, but our research has shown that we find a less diverse gut microbiome in those patients with fatigue compared to patients without fatigue while they were in remission. There is something in the gut that influences the central nervous system. We are still exploring this.”

The researchers reported having no financial disclosures. The abstract received a “poster of distinction” honor at the meeting.

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