Data about long-term prognostic and therapeutic outcome of patients with ulcerative proctitis (UP) are scarce. Real-world data are very important as these patients are usually excluded from participation in randomised controlled clinical trials.
All patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis limited to the rectum (further defined as UP) and followed at our referral centre between 1998 and 2018, were identified via an automated search of electronic medical records and were reviewed for long-term therapeutic outcome. Treatment success was defined as clinical remission (complete disappearance of UP-related symptoms as judged by the treating physician) and endoscopic inactive disease (Mayo endoscopic sub-score of 0 or 1 on sigmoidoscopy) if available at last follow-up.
From a total of 1561 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), 168 patients with UP were identified (54% female, mean age at diagnosis 36 years). While the majority (118 patients or 70%) had proctitis since diagnosis, another 50/168 (30%) were diagnosed with left-sided colitis or extensive colitis but had a predominant disease course of proctitis afterwards. Nearly, all patients received treatment with 5-ASA but 71 patients (42%) were refractory to rectal ± oral therapy with 5-ASA and corticosteroids necessitating azathioprine in 41 patients (24%) and/or biological therapies in 59 patients (35%). Azathioprine was started as monotherapy in 34 patients. Anti-TNF was the first-line biological in 45 and vedolizumab in 14 patients. After a median follow-up of 76.5 months (IQR 34.3–143.8), clinical remission was observed in 143 patients (85%) and in 52/71 patients with 5-ASA refractory proctitis (73%). In this last group, clinical remission rates were significantly higher for patients treated with biologicals (44/59 or 75%) as compared with patients treated with azathioprine (8/34 or 24%; p < 0.0001).
Ten per cent of patients with ulcerative colitis from our referral centre cohort had disease confined to the rectum. With a median follow-up of more than 6 years, good clinical outcomes were recorded with 85% of patients achieving clinical remission. Nevertheless, more than one third needed escalation to biologicals to control the proctitis. Long-term outcome in patients on biologicals was superior to azathioprine. Our data do not suggest inferior outcomes for patients with proctitis compared with left-sided or extensive colitis.