Crohn's disease (CD) is a chronic inflammatory condition characterized by continuous mucosal damage and ongoing wound healing of the intestines. The fibrinolytic system is involved in early parts of the wound healing process. Fibrin is a key mediator of primary blood clot formation and is formed by cross-linking of fibrinogen. To gain insights into the dynamics of wound healing in CD patients we investigated the conversion of fibrinogen into fibrin by the pro-peptide FPA, the amount of factor XIII cross-linked fibrin and total fibrin clot.

Serum samples of 35 CD patients, 15 non-inflammatory bowel disease (non-IBD) patients and 39 age-matched healthy controls were analyzed for three novel neo-epitope markers: D-fragment and D-dimer, reflecting the degradation of total fibrin clot and factor XIII cross-linked fibrin, as well as FPA, reflecting synthesis of fibrin.

Crohn's disease patients had a significantly lower D-dimer level (p=0.0001) compared to healthy controls. Crohn's disease and non-IBD patients had a significantly higher level of FPA (p<0.0001) and D-fragment/D-dimer ratio (p<0.0001 and p=0.02). FPA, D-dimer and D-fragment/D-dimer ratio could distinguish CD patients from healthy controls with area under the curve of 0.92 (95% CI 0.83-0.97), 0.78 (95% CI 0.67-0.87) and 0.85 (95% CI 0.75-0.93), respectively.

Wound healing parameters were clearly changed in CD patients. FPA levels were higher in CD patients as compared to healthy controls, indicating more ongoing wound healing. D-dimer levels were lower in CD patients than in healthy controls, indicating impaired wound healing due to poor quality of factor XIII cross-linked fibrin and clot resolution.