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Leukocytapheresis Is Effective in Inducing But Not in Maintaining Remission in Ulcerative Colitis

Honma, Terasu MD; Sugimura, Kazuhito MD; Asakura, Hitoshi MD; Matsuzawa, Jun MD; Suzuki, Kohji MD; Kobayashi, Masaaki MD; Aoyagi, Yutaka MD

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: November-December 2005 - Volume 39 - Issue 10 - p 886-890
doi: 10.1097/01.mcg.0000180638.59140.c5
Alimentary Tract: Clinical Research

Goals and Background: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by dense infiltration of lymphocytes, plasma cells, neutrophils, and monocyte-macrophages into the colonic mucosa. Leukocytapheresis is a procedure for selectively removing white blood cells from withdrawn blood. It is used for the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. This study was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of leukocytapheresis for inducing and maintaining remission in corticosteroid-resistant UC, as compared with corticosteroid-responsive UC.

Study: Forty-five patients with active UC who were treated with a dose of 1 mg/kg per day or more of prednisolone given systemically for at least 2 weeks were evaluated. Twenty patients (6 males, 14 females) in whom improvement was induced only by high doses of prednisolone were allocated as the corticosteroid-responsive group. The other 25 patients (11 males, 14 females) who did not respond to the above-mentioned dose of prednisolone therapy were allocated as the corticosteroid-resistant group and received leukocytapheresis therapy once a week for 5 weeks. Of patients who had a remission, the corticosteroid-responsive group continued to have the conventional therapy and the corticosteroid-resistant group were given leukocytapheresis once every 4 weeks for at least 2 years as maintenance therapy.

Results: Remission was induced by 5 weeks of leukocytapheresis in 23 of the 25 (92%) patients with corticosteroid-resistant active UC. The number of days required to achieve remission of UC was fewer in patients who received leukocytapheresis than in those who did not. Follow-up study of the patients who had remission showed similar relapse rates at 2 years in the patients who received leukocytapheresis and those given high doses of prednisolone alone.

Conclusions: Leukocytapheresis is an effective treatment of acute corticosteroid-resistant UC but does not prevent the recurrence of UC.

From the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Niigata University, Niigata, Japan.

Received for publication February 4, 2004; accepted January 20, 2005.

Reprints: Terasu Honma, MD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Niigata University, 757 Ichibanchou, Asahimachidori, Niigata, Japan (e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.