Intravenous cyclosporin as rescue therapy in severe ulcerative colitis: time for a reappraisal?

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998 May;10(5):411-3. doi: 10.1097/00042737-199805000-00010.


Background: Intravenous cyclosporin is the only new therapy in recent years to have made a significant impact on the management of acute severe ulcerative colitis (UC). It is increasingly recommended for use in patients who prove refractory to the standard regimen of intravenous (i.v.) and rectal hydrocortisone but do not warrant immediate surgery. This practice is based on uncontrolled and controlled studies which suggest a short-term efficacy of 80% and long-term efficacy of 60% in avoiding colectomy.

Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the short- and long-term efficacy of i.v. cyclosporin in patients admitted to our hospital with acute severe ulcerative colitis refractory to i.v. steroids, over a 6-year period.

Method: A retrospective survey of patients admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, with acute severe UC over a 6-year period (1991-97) was performed. Truelove and Witts criteria for acute severe UC were satisfied by 216 patients.

Results: The standard regimen achieved remission in 132 patients (61%). Of the 84 patients who failed to respond, 34 (40%) proceeded directly to colectomy whilst 50 received cyclosporin (4 mg/kg by continuous slow infusion). Remission was achieved by i.v. cyclosporin in 28/50 (56%) patients who were subsequently transferred to oral cyclosporin (5 mg/kg). However, 8/28 (29%) who initially responded later relapsed after discharge from hospital and underwent colectomy. The short-term efficacy of 56% therefore falls to 40% in the longer term (mean follow-up of 19 months).

Conclusion: This is the largest survey to date of patients with refractory severe UC treated with i.v. cyclosporin. The findings confirm the potential value of i.v. cyclosporin in severe UC but its effectiveness in clinical practice is less dramatic than previously reported.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Cyclosporine / administration & dosage
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine
  • Hydrocortisone