Inflammatory Bowel Disease Management in a Romanian Tertiary Gastroenterology Center: Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Background and Aims: Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) patients management has been challenging during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, due to lockdowns, limitation of access to medical facilities and new recommendations regarding patient management. The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on IBD patients’ management were assessed in our Tertiary Gastroenterology Center in Bucharest, Romania.
Methods: Medical records of IBD patients admitted between 15th of March and 15th of August 2020 were retrospectively reviewed and compared to a control cohort of consecutive IBD patients admitted to our unit during the corresponding period of 2019.
Results: There was a highly significant shift towards one-day hospitalization during the referral period in 2020 for IBD cases (91% in 2020 vs 82.2% in 2019, p=0.0001). There was no statistically significant difference between the distribution of patient’s gender, IBD phenotype or newly diagnosed IBD cases. A significantly lower proportion of admitted patients received 5-aminosalicylic acid (29% vs 41.2%, p=0.0001), whereas a substantially higher number of patients were prescribed biological therapy in 2020 in comparison to the corresponding 2019-time frame (79.5% vs 57.9%, p<0.0001). The distribution of the biological agent used was significantly different in 2019 in comparison to the 2020 period mainly due to the increase in vedolizumab prescription in 2020 (p<0.0001). During the study period in 2020, seven IBD patients (1.7%) were diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov2) infection, all of them with mild symptoms without impact on the IBD course.
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic led to reorganizing medical care, limiting the hospital admissions in favor of severe IBD cases, favoring telemedicine for mild disease and optimization of treatment for moderate to severe IBD with an increased use of biologicals aimed to maximize the risk/benefit ratio. Incidence of SARS-Cov2 infection during the first wave of COVID-19 infection in our study group was 1.7% and did not adversely impact the IBD disease course.