Randomised clinical trial: exclusive enteral nutrition versus standard of care for acute severe ulcerative colitis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2021 Mar;53(5):568-576. doi: 10.1111/apt.16249. Epub 2021 Jan 13.


Background: Intravenous corticosteroids are the mainstay of therapy for acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC), but 30%-40% of patients fail to respond.

Aim: To investigate the effectiveness of exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) as adjunctive therapy to intravenous corticosteroids in patients with ASUC.

Methods: This was an open-label randomised controlled trial, in which patients who were admitted with ASUC between August 2018 and May 2020 were randomised 1:1 to EEN or standard of care (SOC). Patients on EEN received a semi-elemental formula for 7 days along with SOC. The primary outcome was corticosteroid failure, defined by the need for salvage medical therapy or colectomy. Faecal microbial analysis was performed on day 1 and day 7 by 16s ribosomal RNA sequencing in some patients.

Results: Of 62 patients (mean age 35.3 ± 12.1 years, 40% male), 32 were randomised to EEN and 30 to SOC. Corticosteroid failure was lower on EEN compared to SOC (intention-to-treat analysis 25% vs 43%, P = 0.051; per protocol analysis 19% vs 43%, P = 0.04), without any difference in colectomy rate (9% vs 13%; P = 0.41). Patients on EEN had a shorter hospital stay [median (range) 10 (8-17) vs 13 (8-24) days; P = 0.04], higher day 7 albumin level (34 ± 4 vs 29 ± 3 g/L, P < 0.01), greater reduction in serum C-reactive protein and faecal calprotectin levels (both P = 0.04) and a lower composite outcome of colectomy/hospitalisation at 6 months (16% vs 39%; P = 0.045) compared to SOC. Patients on EEN showed increased abundance of Erysipelotrichaceae on day 7, with reduced Bifidobacterium and Veillonellaceae compared to SOC.

Conclusions: EEN for 7 days may augment corticosteroid responsiveness in patients with ASUC. (REF/2018/05/019844; CTRI/2020/06/025989).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colitis, Ulcerative* / drug therapy
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Standard of Care
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex