BACKGROUND: Physicians traditionally treat ulcerative colitis (UC) using a step-up approach. Given the paucity of data, we aimed to assess the cumulative probability of UC-related need for step-up therapy and to identify escalation-associated risk factors.
METHODS: Patients with UC enrolled into the Swiss IBD Cohort Study were analyzed. The following steps from the bottom to the top of the therapeutic pyramid were examined: (1) 5-aminosalicylic acid and/or rectal corticosteroids, (2) systemic corticosteroids, (3) immunomodulators (IM) (azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate), (4) TNF antagonists, (5) calcineurin inhibitors, and (6) colectomy.
RESULTS: Data on 996 patients with UC with a median disease duration of 9 years were examined. The point estimates of cumulative use of different treatments at years 1, 5, 10, and 20 after UC diagnosis were 91%, 96%, 96%, and 97%, respectively, for 5-ASA and/or rectal corticosteroids, 63%, 69%, 72%, and 79%, respectively, for systemic corticosteroids, 43%, 57%, 59%, and 64%, respectively, for IM, 15%, 28%, and 35% (up to year 10 only), respectively, for TNF antagonists, 5%, 9%, 11%, and 12%, respectively, for calcineurin inhibitors, 1%, 5%, 9%, and 18%, respectively, for colectomy. The presence of extraintestinal manifestations and extended disease location (at least left-sided colitis) were identified as risk factors for step-up in therapy with systemic corticosteroids, IM, TNF antagonists, calcineurin inhibitors, and surgery. Cigarette smoking at diagnosis was protective against surgery.
CONCLUSIONS: The presence of extraintestinal manifestations, left-sided colitis, and extensive colitis/pancolitis at the time of diagnosis were associated with use of systemic corticosteroids, IM, TNF antagonists, calcineurin inhibitors, and colectomy during the disease course.