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INTRODUCTION

Key Clinical Questions

  • Image not available. What is the timing and treatment of peptic ulcer disease?

  • Image not available. What are the factors in diagnosis and treatment of aortoenteric fistula?

  • Image not available. What treatments are available for each etiology of upper GI bleeding?

  • Image not available. What is the appropriate management and follow-up of variceal bleeding?

  • Image not available. How do you estimate the severity of bleeding so that you can triage appropriate patients to the ICU, medical floor, or observation unit?

  • Image not available. Which patients are more likely to rebleed and hence require continued observation in the hospital after their bleeding has apparently stopped, and for how long?

Upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is responsible for over 300,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States. An additional 100,000 to 150,000 patients develop upper GI bleeding during hospitalizations. The annual cost of treating nonvariceal acute upper GI bleeding in the United States exceeds $7 billion.

Upper GI bleeding is defined as a bleeding source in the GI tract proximal to the ligament of Treitz. The presentation varies depending on the nature and severity of bleeding and includes hematemesis, melena, hematochezia (in rapid upper GI bleeding), and anemia with heme-positive stools. Bleeding can be associated with changes in vital signs, including tachycardia and hypotension including orthostatic hypotension. Given the range of presentations, pinpointing the nature and severity of GI bleeding may be a challenging task.

The natural history of nonvariceal upper GI bleeding is that 80% of patients will stop bleeding spontaneously and no further urgent intervention will be needed. In contrast, only 50% of patients with a variceal hemorrhage stop bleeding spontaneously. Following cessation of active variceal bleeding, there is a high risk of recurrent bleeding within 6 weeks.

The mortality rate for nonvariceal upper GI bleeding is 2% to 14%. This mortality rate has improved because of the development of new medications, endoscopy (both diagnostic and therapeutic), intensive care units (ICUs), and advances in surgical management. The mortality remains high since patients with GI bleeding now are older, have more comorbidities, and are taking more medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anticoagulants, and antiplatelet agents. For variceal bleeding, mortality is between 15% and 50% for each bleeding episode, and 70% to 80% in those with continuous bleeding. Variceal hemorrhage is responsible for one-third of all deaths due to cirrhosis.

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS

NONVARICEAL BLEEDING

Peptic ulcer disease

Diagnosis: Peptic ulcer disease is a common condition stemming from an imbalance of protective and disruptive factors of the GI mucosa. Ulcers are most commonly found in the stomach and proximal duodenum (Figures 156-1 and 156-2). Peptic ulcer disease is the most common cause of upper GI bleeding and accounts for up to 50% of total cases and over 100,000 hospital admissions per year in the United States. The annual incidence of peptic ulcer disease in patients infected with Helicobacter pylori is about ...

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