Journal of Crohn's and Colitis (2007) 1, 21-27

Maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis has no impact on changes in the extent of ulcerative colitis

N. Eleftheriadis, G. Lambrecht, G. D'Haens, F. Baert, M. Cabooter, E. Louis, G. Van Assche, P. Schurmans, P. Caenepeel, M. Van Outryve, P. Lammens, A. Van Gossum, M. De Vos on behalf of the Belgian IBD Research Group

BACKGROUND AND AIM: Although the efficacy of maintenance remission therapy in ulcerative colitis (UC) has been proved in many studies, little is known about its possible effect on the extent of the disease. The aim of the present multicenter Belgian study was to evaluate the potential role of UC maintenance therapy on the colonic extension of the disease.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 98 patients, 56 males, 42 females, mean age 52 years, range 22–82 years, from 12 medical centers in Belgium, with an acute exacerbation of wellestablished, endoscopically and histologically proven left-sided UC, were included. The colonic extension was endoscopically determined at the time of the initial diagnosis and at the actual flare-up. The mean duration of UC was 93+72 months, median was 84 months, and range was 3–372 months. Active smoking was reported in only 7% of patients, while the majority were nosmokers (63%) or ex-smokers (30%). The median colonic extension at the time of initial diagnosis was 25 cm, range 2–70 cm from the anal merge. Sixty-six percent of the patients had quiescent disease without flare-ups during last year. The χ2-test was used for statistical analysis.
RESULTS: 29/98 (29.6%) patients had not used any maintenance therapy in the last 3 months before the actual exacerbation. The most commonly used maintenance therapy was 5-ASA (43%), while combined therapy with 5-ASA, corticosteroids or immunosuppresives (mainly azathioprine) in all possible combinations was reported by 29.6% of patients. The extent of UC had not changed in 50.7% and 51.7% of patients, respectively, with and without maintaining therapy (NS, p=0.99). Some degree of regression was observed in, respectively, 21.7% and 20.7% (NS, p=0.99), and some degree of extension in, respectively, 27.5% and 27.6% (NS, p=0.99). Furthermore, no relationship was found between changes in colonic extent and type of maintaining therapy, smoking habits or disease activity during the last year before the acute exacerbation. A tendency of beneficial effect of maintenance therapy on disease extent was observed in patients with continuous active disease of short duration.
CONCLUSIONS: According to this multicenter study, maintenance remission therapy for left-sided UC was not found to have a statistically significant effect on colonic extension. Further longterm studies are necessary to confirm these results.