Background & Aims: The management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has become increasingly complicated, and it is unknown whether poor outcomes (prolonged steroid use, hospitalizations, and surgery) have declined in the general population. Methods: This multilevel study used computerized clinical data. The study comprised 2892 adults with Crohn's disease (CD) and 5895 with ulcerative colitis (UC) who received care at 16 medical centers within an integrated care organization in Northern California between 1998 and 2005. Results: Time trends included (1) a shift in gastroenterology-related visits from the gastroenterology division to primary care; (2) increased use of IBD-related drugs, except for a 7% decline in use of 5-aminosalicylate in CD and no change in steroid use for CD; (3) for the prevalence of prolonged steroid exposure (120 days of continuous use), a 36% decline for CD with a 27% increase for UC; (4) declines in the hospitalization rates of 33% for CD and 29% for UC; and (5) for the surgery rate, no significant change for CD with a 50% decline for UC. Conclusions: Declines in prolonged steroid exposure and the hospitalization rate for CD and in the hospitalization and surgery rate for UC are encouraging; however, the increase in prolonged steroid exposure for UC merits concern and further investigation. The variability in care patterns observed in this study suggests lack of standardization of care and the opportunity to identify targets for quality improvement. These findings should stimulate research to quantify the effect of current trends in IBD management.
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