Background: Some evidence indicates that short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) enemas are effective in the treatment of distal ulcerative colitis.
Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we tested the efficacy of a 6-week course of topical SCFA (100 mL, twice daily enemas of sodium acetate 80 mmol/L, sodium propionate 30 mmol/L and sodium butyrate 40 mmol/L) in 40 patients with mild to moderate distal colitis. Clinical, endoscopic and histological data were collected at the beginning and end of the study.
Results: Fourteen patients on SCFA improved (overall score 11.3 +/- 2.0 vs. 7.4 +/- 3.5) as compared to five in the placebo group (overall score 10.0 +/- 1.9 vs. 8.9 +/- 2.5). In the SCFA-treated group all parameters significantly improved except the number of bowel motions, whereas no significant changes were recorded in the control group. A statistically significant difference between the two treatment regimens, however, was observed only for intestinal bleeding (P < 0.05), urgency (P < 0.02) and the patient self-evaluation score (P < 0.05). This was probably due to the random inclusion of more patients with moderate disease into the SCFA-treated group, thus causing pretrial differences between the two groups.
Conclusion: The present study confirms that irrigation with SCFA enemas is effective in distal colitis, and may represent an alternative therapeutic tool in the treatment of the disease.