Tocilizumab-Associated Small Bowel Perforation in a Young Patient With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Lesson to Remember During COVID-19 Pandemic

Eltaib Saad, Abdalaziz Awadelkarim, Mohamed Agab, Akram Babkir


Tocilizumab is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody directed against the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor, which has been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A range of side effects have been associated with tocilizumab, with gastrointestinal perforation (GIP) being described as a rare but potentially life-threatening complication that deserves considerable attention. The authors report a case of a young male patient with a history of challenging RA who encountered a lower GIP that was associated with tocilizumab therapy. The occurrence of tocilizumab-induced GIP in this reported patient had initially posed a diagnostic dilemma, as its clinical presentation mimicked other autoimmune inflammatory and infectious diseases that are commonly associated with RA. Physicians should be aware of GIPs as a serious adverse event of tocilizumab use despite being a rare phenomenon, particularly in the era of the global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), when this novel drug has been authorized for the management of selected patients with severe COVID-19 infection. Therefore, early recognition and timely management of GIPs would minimize potential morbidities associated with critically ill COVID-19 patients.

J Med Cases. 2022;13(3):135-139


Tocilizumab; Gastrointestinal perforations; Rare; Rheumatoid arthritis; COVID-19

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