Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 465–470 | Cite as

Treatment with Immunosuppressive Therapy May Improve Depressive Symptoms in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Sara Horst
  • Andrew Chao
  • Michael Rosen
  • Anne Nohl
  • Caroline Duley
  • Julianne H. Wagnon
  • Dawn B. Beaulieu
  • Warren Taylor
  • Lawrence Gaines
  • David A. Schwartz
Original Article



Recent research suggests a relationship of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and depression. Our objective was to evaluate for improvement of depressive symptoms with treatment of IBD using immunosuppressive medications.


A retrospective study of consecutive patients with IBD started on immunosuppressive agents [anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) or immunomodulator therapy] was conducted. Patients were evaluated if disease activity indices using Harvey Bradshaw Index for Crohn’s disease (CD) and Simple Clinical Colitis Disease Activity Index for ulcerative colitis (UC) and depressive indices using Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) scores were obtained before and at least 30 days after initiation of therapy.


Sixteen patients with UC and 53 patients with CD (all with active disease symptoms) were evaluated over a 60 day median follow-up evaluation (range 30, 140 days). Twenty-two patients started on immunomodulator therapy, and 47 patients started on anti-TNF therapy. Crohn’s disease patients had significantly decreased PHQ-9 scores at follow-up [median 9 (range 3, 14) to 4 (1, 8)], with significant decreases only in those started on anti-TNF therapy. Changes in PHQ-9 and CRP were correlated (ρ = 0.38, p < 0.05). In patients with UC, PHQ-9 scores [5 (3, 9) to 2 (0, 5)] were significantly decreased. Percentage at risk of moderate to severe depression (PHQ-9 scores ≥10) was lower after treatment [Crohn’s disease 51–18 % (p < 0.05), ulcerative colitis 18–0 %].


Depressive scores decreased significantly in patients with IBD treated with immunosuppressive therapy and the number at risk for moderate to severe depression improved significantly.


Inflammatory bowel disease Depression Ulcerative colitis Crohn’s disease Anti-tumor necrosis factor antibody Azathioprine 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Horst
    • 1
  • Andrew Chao
    • 1
  • Michael Rosen
    • 2
  • Anne Nohl
    • 1
  • Caroline Duley
    • 1
  • Julianne H. Wagnon
    • 1
  • Dawn B. Beaulieu
    • 1
  • Warren Taylor
    • 3
  • Lawrence Gaines
    • 1
    • 3
  • David A. Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Department of MedicineVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Department of PediatricsCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA

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