Purpose: Proctocolectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis is the operation of choice for patients with refractory or fulminant ulcerative colitis. The most common long-term complication in these patients is pouchitis. This study was designed to investigate the efficacy of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in long-term delaying the first onset of pouchitis.
Methods: Between 1989 and 2001, a consecutive series of 127 patients presenting with ulcerative colitis underwent an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. Histopathologic investigation of the resected specimens revealed unsuspected Crohn's disease in five patients. Postoperative complications resulted in pouch excision in five patients. The remaining 117 patients were included in this study. All episodes of pouchitis occurring in this group were analyzed. Pouchitis was diagnosed on the basis of clinical symptoms and endoscopic and histologic features. The 39 patients, who underwent an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis between 1996 and 2001, started immediately after the operation with the daily intake of L. rhamnosus GG in a fermented product. The 78 patients, in whom an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis was performed between 1989 and 1996, received no L. rhamnosus GG.
Results: Except for the duration of follow-up, the patient characteristics, indications for proctocolectomy, number of postoperative complications, and functional outcome were similar in both groups. First episodes of pouchitis were observed less frequently in patients with a daily intake of L. rhamnosus GG (cumulative risk at 3 years: 7 vs. 29 percent; P = 0.011).
Conclusions: Daily intake of fermented products containing L. rhamnosus GG provides significant clinical benefit, without side effects. Based on the results of this study, we recommend a daily intake of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (dose 1-2 x 10(10) bacteria) to delay the first onset of pouchitis.