Background: Within a lifetime, approximately 15% of ulcerative colitis (UC) patients will have a severe relapse necessitating admission to hospital. Despite intravenous steroid treatment, approximately 25% will require either surgery or ciclosporin (CsA) rescue therapy. Initial response rates to CsA have been encouraging, but remission rates have been disappointing. There is a paucity of long-term data on UC patients who have been brought into remission with CsA.
Objectives: To report our 7 year experience on the use of CsA in acute UC and to highlight long-term follow-up data on these patients.
Patients and methods: A retrospective database of 76 UC patients requiring CsA between 1996 and 2003 was constructed. CsA was started on the basis of their C-reactive protein (CRP) and/or stool frequency after 3 days or after 5-7 days of i.v. hydrocortisone. The patients (33 female, 43 male, mean age 44.5 years) were followed up for a median 2.9 years (range 0.2-7.0 years). Fifty-four patients received i.v. CsA (4 mg/kg), while 22 received oral CsA (5 mg/kg). Long-term outcome was evaluated by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis: time to first relapse and time to surgery.
Results: Median disease duration was 6.6 years. Median CRP and stool frequency at day 3 was 20 mg/l and 6 per day, respectively. Fifty-six patients (74%) achieved initial remission. CsA was discontinued in only four patients due to side effects. Duration of i.v. steroids or the addition of AZA did not improve time to first relapse or time to surgery. Comparison between i.v. CsA and oral CsA revealed a statistically significant difference in time to first relapse (P < 0.01) and time to surgery (P < 0.05) in favour of oral CsA.
Conclusions: These data describe the long-term outcome of the largest series of patients so far reported that have had treatment with CsA for severe refractory UC. If patients achieved initial remission with CsA, after 1 year, 65% had relapsed and after 3 years 90% had relapsed. After 7 years, 58% had come to colectomy. Minor side effects were frequent, but none were life threatening. There was no increase in post-operative complications in those who came to colectomy.