SAN DIEGO — Patients with IBD may be at greater risk for flares if they frequently travel by air or visit high-altitude destinations, according to data presented at the 2012 Digestive Disease Week Annual Meeting.
Researchers administered a questionnaire to 103 IBD patients, including 43 with Crohn’s disease and 60 with ulcerative colitis. The cohort included 52 patients who had presented with a flare at one of three tertiary referral centers throughout Switzerland, and 51 IBD patients in remission matched to the flare patients according to age, gender, smoking habits and medication. Questions referred to participants’ activity over the previous four weeks.
Patients with flares were found to have traveled by air or journeyed to destinations at 2,000 meters or more above sea level significantly more frequently than patients in remission (40.4% of flare patients vs. 15.7% of remission patients, P=.005). Those with Crohn’s disease who had experienced a flare were significantly more likely to have recently traveled by flights to locations at that altitude (38.1% vs. 9.1%, P=.024). Investigators also observed a trend toward more frequent flying and high-altitude travel among ulcerative colitis patients in the flare group (41.9% vs. 20.7%, P=.077).
“We need to look more closely at how hypoxia may induce inflammation on a molecular level in the intestines,” Stephan R. Vavricka, MD, chief of the gastroenterology and hepatology division at Trieml Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, said in a news release, adding that an additional prospective study with a larger cohort would be warranted. “It’s too early to tell patients not to get on a plane or to restrict where they go.”
For more information:
Vavricka SR. #303: High Altitude Journeys and Flights Are Associated With the Increased Risk of Flares in IBD Patients. Presented at: the 2012 Digestive Disease Week Annual Meeting; May 19-22, San Diego.