OBJECTIVE: Cyclosporin (CSA) is a promising alternative for patients with severe steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis (UC) previously facing only surgical options. Concerns over the long term efficacy and side effects resulted in this investigation of the University of Chicago's 5-yr CSA experience in these patients. METHODS: All steroid-refractory severe ulcerative colitis (UC) patients treated with IV CSA from 1991 to 1995 were identified by using the university's IBD database, with additional information from patient charts and physician files. RESULTS: A total of 42 patients with severe UC unresponsive to IV steroids were treated with IV CSA (4 mg/kg/day). Of 42 patients, 36 (86%) responded; 31 were continued on oral CSA (8 mg/kg/day) for an overall mean of 20 wk. Ten initial CSA responders had colectomies after a mean of 6 months. Of the 36 initial responders, 25 (69%) also received 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) or azathioprine (aza), and CSA and steroids were tapered. A total of 20% required colectomy, vs 45% of those not receiving 6MP/aza. In all, 62% of all patients, 72% of initial CSA responders, and 80% of initial CSA responders receiving 6MP/aza have avoided colectomy, with a life table analysis of 'noncolectomy survival' of 58%, 70%, and 71%, respectively, at 5.5 yr. All colectomies occurred within 18 months of CSA initiation. Complications, resulting in CSA discontinuation in six patients, were all reversible, with complete recovery. CONCLUSIONS: CSA successfully allows most severe steroid resistant UC patients to retain their colons, and provides time for 'elective' colectomy in others, especially if 6MP/aza are also given. Careful monitoring for side effects, including PCP prophylaxis, should be part of the treatment protocol.
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