Ulcerative colitis [UC] is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] characterised by colonic inflammation extending to a variable extent from the rectum. Care of the patient with UC requires appropriate input from across the multiprofessional team. These guidelines summarise the recommended medical treatment for adults with UC. Other ECCO guidelines consider the approach to UC diagnosis and monitoring,1–3 nursing care,4 management of disease complications,5–7 risk of infection,8 and technical aspects of surgery.9 This document was prepared as part of a process that also led to the publication of a related guideline with recommendations on the surgical care of the patients with UC and on the medical aspects of the management of the patient hospitalised with severe UC. ECCO Guidelines on Therapeutics in Ulcerative Colitis: Surgical Treatment.
Patients living with UC can have a variable disease course.10 In this document, we discuss therapeutic approaches stratified by disease severity [mildly-to-moderately active and moderately-to-severely active disease]. Attempts to define disease severity are widely used in setting clinical trial inclusion criteria and can be measured according to several different definitions.11 Trial populations will inevitably vary, and we reflect the continuum of disease severity by having the moderate disease category span both broad categories. It is also important to remember that these definitions capture severity at a given point in time and may not reflect the cumulative long-term burden of disease experienced by a patient.12
It is also important to consider disease extent when planning treatment in UC, as this may affect the optimal route of drug administration. This is typically defined according to disease involving the rectum only [proctitis], disease distal to the splenic flexure [left-sided UC], or disease extending proximal to the splenic flexure [extensive UC].13 These definitions of disease extent are recognised as somewhat arbitrary; in clinical practice, topically administered therapies are often used for UC whose extent is limited to the rectum and a portion of the sigmoid colon [proctosigmoiditis], with the term ‘distal colitis’ used to describe this disease distribution. It should be remembered that disease distribution can change10,14 and that proximal disease extension can be a negative prognostic marker.15