Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the large bowel and is associated with a significant risk of both requirement for surgery and the need for hospitalisation. Thiopurines, and more recently, anti-tumour necrosis factor (aTNF) therapy have been used successfully to induce clinical remission. However, there is less data available on whether these agents prevent long-term colectomy rates or the need for hospitalisation. The focus of this article is to review the recent and pertinent literature on the long-term impact of thiopurines and aTNF on long-term surgical and hospitalisation rates in UC. Data from population based longitudinal research indicates that thiopurine therapy probably has a protective role against colectomy, if used in appropriate patients for a sufficient duration. aTNF agents appear to have a short term protective effect against colectomy, but data is limited for longer periods. Whereas there is insufficient evidence that thiopurines affect hospitalisation, evidence favours that aTNF therapy probably reduces the risk of hospitalisation within the first year of use, but it is less clear on whether this effect continues beyond this period. More structured research needs to be conducted to answer these clinically important questions.
Keywords: Admission; Anti-tumour necrosis factor; Azathioprine; Colectomy; Hospitalisation; Immunomodulator; Surgery; Thiopurine; Ulcerative colitis.