The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on leukapheresis for inflammatory bowel disease in June 2005. In accordance with the Interventional Procedures Programme Process Guide, guidance on procedures with special arrangements are reviewed 3 years after publication and the procedure is reassessed if important new evidence is available.

The guidance was considered for reassessment in June 2008 and it was concluded that NICE will not be updating this guidance at this stage. However, if you believe there is new evidence which should warrant a review of our guidance, please contact us via the email address below.


Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulceration of the rectum and sometimes the colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhoea and rectal bleeding. Crohn’s disease usually causes inflammation and ulceration of the small and large intestines, but it can affect any part of the digestive tract. The main symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight loss. Both of these are chronic conditions, characterised by periods of clinical relapse and remission.

Conservative treatments include dietary measures, and medications to control inflammation. Immunosuppressants may be used if other medical therapies are ineffective at maintaining remission. Patients with ulcerative colitis that does not respond to medical therapy may be treated with surgery to remove the colon. Although surgery may also be used for patients with Crohn’s disease, it may not be curative and the disease often recurs in a different part of the digestive tract.

Leukapheresis involves extracorporeal removal of leukocytes from the blood, either by centrifugation or by passage of blood through an adsorptive system. In each system, venous blood is removed in a continuous flow, anticoagulated, processed to deplete the leukocytes, and returned to the circulation. A leukapheresis session takes approximately one to two hours. The procedure is usually carried out once or twice a week, for about 5 to 10 sessions.

Coding recommendations

Coding and clinical classification codes for this guidance.