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Current misunderstandings in the management of ulcerative colitis
  1. Thomas Ochsenkühn1,
  2. Geert D'Haens2
  1. 1Department of Gastroenterology, IBD center of the University of Munich, Campus Grosshadern, Munich, Germany
  2. 2Department of Gastroenterology, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Geert D'Haens, Department of Gastroenterology, Academic Medical Centre, Meibergdreef 9-C2-112, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands; g.dhaens{at}


Past and ongoing therapeutic concepts for ulcerative colitis have only been moderately successful. A significant proportion of patients with ulcerative colitis will still have to undergo colectomy and overall half of the patients do not achieve sustained remission, leading to impairment of physical and mental health, social life, employment issues and sexual activity. Reluctance to treat patients early on with sufficiently potent drug regimens is obvious. Several popular misconceptions might have led to this situation. First, ulcerative colitis is still considered a more ‘benign’ disease than Crohn's disease. Furthermore, the general assumption is often that colectomy can ‘cure’ the disease. Mucosal healing as a therapeutic target has not been widely accepted. Finally, the use of antitumour necrosis factor antibodies in ulcerative colitis has been low because this treatment is considered to be less effective than in Crohn's disease. In the current review we try to disprove these misunderstandings by discussing relevant studies showing how harmful this disease can be and explaining why future studies targeting sustained suppression of inflammation could have an enormous impact on the natural course of the disease. Until these studies are available, we encourage physicians to intensify and maintain treatment until sustained remission and mucosal healing has been reached.

  • IBD clinical
  • infliximab
  • mucosal protection
  • surgery for IBD
  • ulcerative colitis

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.