20 patients with severe inflammatory bowel disease took part in the study, published in the August issue of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
8 patients were randomized to heparin treatment, with 5 days of intravenous heparin followed by subcutaneous heparin for 5 weeks.
The remaining 12 patients were given high-dose intravenous hydrocortisone for 5 days, followed by oral prednisolone for 5 weeks.
"This represents a new model for the future understanding of chronic inflammatory disorders."
Dr Y Ang
The clinical response to treatment was monitored using the Truelove-Witt index for patients with ulcerative colitis, and the Harvey-Bradshaw index for patients with Crohn’s colitis.
Stool frequency, serum C-reactive protein and a 1 acid glycoprotein levels were also compared, along with endoscopic and histopathological grading.
After 6 weeks, 6 out of 8 patients (75%) undergoing heparin therapy and 8 out of 12 patients (67%) being treated with steroids had responded to treatment.
Both corticosteroid and heparin treatments significantly reduced the levels of C-reactive protein and a 1 acid glycoprotein, also decreasing the frequency of liquid stools. There was no significant difference in the effectiveness of the two treatments.
Both treatments were well tolerated by patients, with no serious side effects reported.
The researchers emphasize the need for large multicenter trials to confirm the findings of this study, and evaluate the role of heparin in the management of IBD.