Treatment of refractory distal ulcerative colitis with short chain fatty acid enemas

Am J Gastroenterol. 1996 Apr;91(4):731-4.


Objectives: To determine the efficacy and safety of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the treatment of refractory distal ulcerative colitis (UC).

Methods: Ten patients with distal UC who had failed to respond to rectal and oral therapy with 5-ASA and corticosteroids were treated with twice daily enemas containing sodium acetate 60 mM, sodium propionate 30 mM, and sodium butyrate 40 mM titrated to a pH of 7. Patients were assessed clinically (rectal bleeding, tenesmus, bowel motions), endoscopically, and histologically before and after 6 wk of therapy. In addition, patients gave a self-assessment of the efficacy of treatment.

Results: Five of the 10 patients responded clinically, and four of these had a clinical remission as reflected by a decrease in degree of bleeding (2.2 vs. 1.2, p < 0.05) and tenesmus (1.6 vs. 0.3, p < 0.05) and by global self-assessment. Endoscopic improvement occurred in five (6.78 +/- 0.83 vs. 4.44 +/- 2.7, p < 0.05). Histologically, no improvement was noted. No side effects were noted, and no patient's condition deteriorated.

Conclusions: In this open-labeled study in patients with highly refractory distal UC, 50% had an overall clinical and endoscopic response. Forty percent of the patients assessed the treatment to be superior to previous treatments and expressed a desire to continue. This trial confirms other studies as to the efficacy of this treatment and further confirms the need for controlled trials of this promising therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / administration & dosage
  • Acetic Acid
  • Adult
  • Butyrates / administration & dosage
  • Butyric Acid
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Enema*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Propionates / administration & dosage
  • Therapeutic Irrigation


  • Acetates
  • Butyrates
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Propionates
  • Butyric Acid
  • sodium propionate
  • propionic acid
  • Acetic Acid