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Treatment for Crohn’s disease has come a long way over the last several decades. One of the newer ways of managing Crohn’s is through infusions designed to put your symptoms into complete remission.

Infusion treatments target the inflammation response in your body that triggers flare-ups of the condition.

If your doctor is recommending Crohn’s infusions as a part of your treatment plan, you might have some questions about how it works and what you should expect.

Here’s a general overview of what an infusion for treating Crohn’s disease consists of and when it’s used. You’ll also learn about how to prepare for this treatment and its potential side effects.

Standard treatments for managing Crohn’s usually consists of a Crohn’s disease diet along with prescription anti-inflammatory drugs that you take orally.

Sometimes, Crohn’s flare-ups can make it necessary for you to take antibiotics, pain medication, or both. Over time, Crohn’s can cause a thickening of your intestinal tract and require surgery to prevent other complications.

On the other hand, Crohn’s infusions are intravenously delivered, meaning you get them through an IV. A doctor will prescribe these types of medications when your Crohn’s isn’t responding to other types of treatment.

Infusions for Crohn’s take several hours. For the most part, they need to be administered in a sterile environment by a healthcare professional.

If your doctor thinks you’re a good candidate for this type of treatment, that means your immune system and the rest of your body are healthy enough to handle the additional side effects that infusions can sometimes cause.

If you get infusions for Crohn’s, there’s a good chance the medication you receive will be a form of biologics. These are drugs made from living cells that target your body’s inflammation response.

There are quite a few biologics that have been approved for the treatment of Crohn’s. Each one works slightly differently.

Renflexis/Avsola/Remicade (Infliximab)

Infliximab is the generic name for several drugs approved for use for moderate to severe symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It’s considered an anti-TNF (tumor necrosis factor) drug, which means it targets proteins in your intestines that cause inflammation.

Infliximab is approved for children as young as 6 years old.

After your first infliximab infusion, you’ll have a second infusion scheduled for 2 weeks later and a third infusion 6 weeks after that. Beyond these initial three infusions, you’ll have maintenance appointments where you get an infusion every 8 weeks.

Entyvio (vedolizumab)

Entyvio is classified as an “integrin receptor antagonist,” not an anti-TNF drug. It may be recommended if you’ve tried anti-TNF drugs in the past to treat Crohn’s without seeing results.

This drug is currently only approved for adults. After your first vedolizumab infusion, you’ll get another one 2 weeks later and one more 6 weeks after that.

You’ll then receive maintenance treatments every 8 weeks, unless your doctor feels that the treatment isn’t working. This is a decision they’ll make with you around week 14.

Tysabri (natalizumab)

Natalizumab is classified as an alpha-4 integrin inhibitor. Put more simply, it’s an anti-inflammatory drug that’s recommended for people with Crohn’s whose bodies aren’t responding to anti-TNF drugs.

Natalizumab infusions are given every 4 weeks, but it can take about 12 weeks (or three infusion cycles) to start seeing improvements in your symptoms.

This particular drug may increase your risk of mental health conditions like depression. There are additional risks associated with other biologics as well.

IXIFI (Infliximab-qbtx)

This drug is similar to IXIFI. With Crohn’s disease, you may develop fistulas, which are atypical connections from your intestines to other body parts. Infliximab-qbtx can help these fistulas drain and help prevent new ones from appearing.

This type of infusion can last 2 to 4 hours. A medical professional will give you doses 2 weeks apart, then 6 weeks apart, and then in an 8-week maintenance regimen.

Stelara (ustekinumab)

Stelara works slightly differently than other biologics approved for Crohn’s treatment. Stelara targets two specific proteins that can trigger inflammation when you have Crohn’s.

Stelara is a one-time infusion that takes about an hour. After that, you don’t need any more infusions, but you do need maintenance injections. You will get these every 8 weeks.

Before you start any infusion treatment regimen, a doctor will need to test you for hepatitis and tuberculosis. Your doctor will give you instructions about what to do before your first infusion appointment. You should follow these instructions carefully.

Prior to an infusion appointment:

  • Make sure to pack a bag with a water bottle and snacks. You’ll need to stay hydrated, and you might be at your appointment for awhile.
  • You might also want to bring a book or a tablet for entertainment while you wait.

The infusion process itself will be fairly straightforward. You’ll need to stay in a seated or reclining position while a healthcare professional attaches an IV to your arm.

Medication will slowly flow through the IV into your body. This process can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the dosage your doctor prescribed you.

You may need to be kept for observation for a period of time after your first infusion is finished. The healthcare professional will make sure that you don’t have any allergic or other reactions to the medication. Plan to add extra time to your appointment for this observation period.

Infusions for Crohn’s disease have different side effects than oral medications. Side effects may include:

  • pain and swelling at the injection site
  • hives
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea
  • headache
  • redness and bruising

Biologic infusions do carry some longer-term risks. That’s because they repress your immune system’s natural response to certain pathogens. If you get biologic infusions, your doctor will work with you to be vigilant about:

  • infections
  • reduced liver function
  • joint pain
  • lupus-like reactions (rash, muscle aches, and joint pain)

A medical professional will typically only recommend an infusion treatment for Crohn’s disease when your body isn’t responding to some more conventional methods of treatment.

The good news is that the medications used for infusion treatment have been shown to be extremely effective at slowing the progression of Crohn’s disease.

If you’re getting infusion treatment for Crohn’s disease, you’ll need to be on the lookout for side effects such as infections and joint pain.