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Gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) is the most common gastrointestinal condition leading to hospitalization in the United States, accounting for over 507,000 admissions and $4.85 billion in direct costs annually. Upper GIB (UGIB) incidence has decreased in recent decades, primarily due to decreases in GIB from ulcers. The ratio of UGIB to lower GIB (LGIB) among GIB admissions from U.S. emergency rooms is ~1.3. The case fatality of patients hospitalized with GIB has also decreased and is <3% in the United States. Patients generally die from decompensation of other underlying illnesses rather than exsanguination.

GIB presents as either overt or occult bleeding. Overt GIB is manifested by hematemesis, vomitus of red blood or “coffee-grounds” material; melena, black, tarry stool; and/or hematochezia, passage of red or maroon blood from the rectum. In the absence of overt bleeding, occult GIB may present with symptoms of blood loss or anemia such as lightheadedness, syncope, angina, or dyspnea; or with iron-deficiency anemia or a positive fecal occult blood test on routine testing. GIB is also categorized by the site of bleeding as UGIB (esophagus, stomach, duodenum), LGIB (colonic), small intestinal, or obscure GIB (if the source is unclear).


Upper Gastrointestinal Sources of Bleeding


Peptic ulcers are the most common cause of UGIB, accounting for ~50% of UGIB hospitalizations. Features of an ulcer at endoscopy provide important prognostic information that guides subsequent management decisions as outlined in Figs. 315-3 and 315-4. Approximately 20% of patients with bleeding ulcers have the highest risk findings of active bleeding or a nonbleeding visible vessel: one-third of such patients have further bleeding that requires urgent surgery if they are treated conservatively. These patients benefit from endoscopic therapy with bipolar electrocoagulation, heater probe, injection therapy (e.g., absolute alcohol, 1:10,000 epinephrine), and/or clips with reductions in bleeding, hospital stay, mortality, and costs. In contrast, patients with clean-based ulcers have rates of serious recurrent bleeding approaching zero. If stable with no other reason for hospitalization, such patients may be discharged home after endoscopy.

Randomized controlled trials document that high-dose, constant-infusion IV proton pump inhibitor (PPI) (80-mg bolus and 8-mg/h infusion), designed to sustain intragastric pH >6 and enhance clot stability, decreases further bleeding and mortality in patients with high-risk ulcers (active bleeding, nonbleeding visible vessel, adherent clot) when given after endoscopic therapy. Recent meta-analysis of randomized trials documents that high-dose intermittent PPIs are non-inferior to constant-infusion PPI therapy and thus may be substituted in this population. Patients with lower-risk findings (flat pigmented spot or clean base) do not require endoscopic therapy and receive standard doses of oral PPI.

Approximately 10–50% of patients with bleeding ulcers will rebleed within the next year if no preventive strategies are employed. Prevention of recurrent bleeding focuses on the three main factors in ...

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