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Treatment of active Crohn’s disease in children using partial enteral nutrition with liquid formula: a randomised controlled trial
  1. T Johnson1,
  2. S Macdonald2,
  3. S M Hill2,
  4. A Thomas3,
  5. M S Murphy1
  1. 1Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK
  3. 3Booth Hall Children’s Hospital, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr M S Murphy
    Institute of Child Health, Clinical Research Block, Whittall St, Birmingham B4 6NH, UK; m.s.murphy{at}


Background and aims: Total enteral nutrition (TEN) with a liquid formula can suppress gut inflammation and induce remission in active Crohn’s disease. The mechanism is obscure. Studies have suggested that long term nutritional supplementation with a liquid formula (partial enteral nutrition (PEN)) may also suppress inflammation and prevent relapse. The aim of this study was to compare PEN with conventional TEN in active Crohn’s disease.

Patients and methods: Fifty children with a paediatric Crohn’s disease activity index (PCDAI) >20 were randomly assigned to receive 50% (PEN) or 100% (TEN) of their energy requirement as elemental formula for six weeks. The PEN group was encouraged to eat an unrestricted diet while those receiving TEN were not allowed to eat. The primary outcome was achievement of remission (PCDAI <10). Secondary analyses of changes in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C reactive protein, albumin, and platelets were performed to look for evidence of anti-inflammatory effects.

Results: Remission rate with PEN was lower than with TEN (15% v 42%; p = 0.035). Although PCDAI fell in both groups (p = 0.001 for both), the reduction was greater with TEN (p = 0.005). Moreover, the fall in PCDAI with PEN was due to symptomatic and nutritional benefits. With both treatments there were significant improvements in relation to abdominal pain, “sense of wellbeing”, and nutritional status. However, only TEN led to a reduction in diarrhoea (p = 0.02), an increase in haemoglobin and albumin, and a fall in platelets and ESR.

Conclusions: TEN suppresses inflammation in active Crohn’s disease but PEN does not. This suggests that long term nutritional supplementation, although beneficial to some patients, is unlikely to suppress inflammation and so prevent disease relapse.

  • CRP, C reactive protein
  • ESR, erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • PCDAI, paediatric Crohn’s disease activity index
  • PUFA(s), polyunsaturated fatty acid(s)
  • PEN, partial enteral nutrition
  • EAR, estimated average requirement
  • SDS, standard deviation score
  • TEN, total enteral nutrition
  • Crohn’s disease
  • enteral nutrition
  • elemental diet
  • children

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  • Published online first 14 September 2005

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