Management of Acute Severe Colitis

A recent review (KG Whatley, MJ Rosen. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2019; 25: 56-66) succinctly summarizes the contemporary medical management of acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC).

Figure 1 provides a useful initial checklist which includes the following:

  • PUCAI score
  • Labs/Imaging: CBC/d, CMP, CRP/ESR, Stool studies (culture/C diff), AXR
  • Pre-salvage labs: TB screen, Hep B serology, VZV serology if needing anit-TNF, TPMT if contemplating thiopurine, lipids if contemplating calcineurin inhibitor
  • Endoscopy: Consider Flex Sig (unsedated) with tissue for CMV PCR if not responding to 3 days of IV steroids
  • Thromboembolism prophylaxis: Low molecular weight heparin (adults, & high-risk pediatric patients), pneumatic compression (low-risk pediatric)
  • Nutrition plan
  • Corticosteroids: methylprednisolone 1-15. mg/kg (to max of 40-60 mg daily)

Each of these recommendations is discussed. For the flex sig recommendation, the authors note that a “full colonoscopy is not recommended due to risk of perforation.” With regard to CMV, the authors acknowledge the low quality of evidence to support antiviral treatment of CMV in this setting.  In addition, the authors suggest PCP prophylaxis in those who receive triple immunosuppression or in those receiving calcineurin inhibitors.

Figure 2 provides a handy algorithm for infliximab salvage therapy in the setting of ASUC:

  • If salvage therapy with infliximab is indicated (day 3-5 of IV steroids), the authors recommend 10 mg/kg dosing.  If there is no response after 3-5 days, repeat dosing is recommended.  If there is no response after an additional 3-5 days, colectomy is recommended.
  • If there is a response to infliximab, the algorithm recommends outpatient management. At time of the 3rd dose (week 5-6), the authors obtain an IFX level.  In those with a level <15, then dosing at 4 week maintenance is recommended; whereas in those 15 and above, every 8 week maintenance is recommended.

The authors discuss some potential emerging treatments. Recommendations from the authors with regard to surgery:

  • Most patients are best served with a subtotal colectomy/end ileostomy in preparation for future ileal pouch anal anastomosis
  • “Surgery should not be delayed to enhance nutrition or taper steroids.”

My take: This article summarizes current approaches with emphasis on not waiting a long time for salvage therapies and using early therapeutic drug monitoring to assist in dosing frequency.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Death Valley


12 thoughts on “Management of Acute Severe Colitis

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