Living Strong with GI Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding related deaths have gone down over the last two decades

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As medicines and gadgets that look down the hatch continue to improve, lives of patients bleeding in the stomach and along other inside parts are being saved.

The number of patients dying from gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding has gone dramatically down over the last 20 years, a study presented at a conference has found.

"See a doctor if you notice unusual stools."

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at the number of cases and deaths because of GI bleeding through a nationwide survey.

Data was gathered through the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest inpatient database in the US that fully represents the population.

Researchers also looked at how often GI bleeding resources were used.

They looked at two subgroups of upper gastrointestinal bleeding, variceal and non-variceal. Variceal bleeding comes from blood vessels that become too large and break in the stomach or esophagus.

Non-variceal are not directly caused by blood vessels but rather from secondary sources like peptic ulcers.

The number of deaths "steadily decreased" from 4.69 percent to 2.13 percent in 1989 to 2009 respectively.

At the same time, the proportion of patients who had endoscopic therapy increased from 2 to 27 percent.

And the time spent in the hospital also decreased from 4.5 days to 2.8 days.

Previous studies had shown the number of deaths due to GI bleeding hadn't changed over the years, according to co-author John Saltzman, MD, director of endoscopy and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

"But many of those studies were small and not nationally representative," he said in a press release.

"A database of this scale was needed to accurately delineate the trends in upper GI bleeding outcomes. We finally are seeing patient benefits from the advanced in medical and endoscopic therapies introduced over the past 20 years."

"This means we are decreasing mortality from upper GI bleeding, and we are doing so more efficiently than before," said co-author Marwan AbouGergi, MD, a research fellow in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The authors also found the economy and hospital investment in treating and working with gastro problems has doubled from $3.3 billion to $7.6 billion over the two decades.

Though future studies need to help clarify the relationship between specific treatment and the lower death rate, the authors say the findings are very important.

"We have also shown the rate of decline in mortality from upper GI bleeding is faster than the overall decline in mortality for all patients admitted to hospitals," said Dr. AbouGergi.

"This suggests that improved treatments specific to gastroenterology are responsible for this change."

Financial support for the study was not available.

The study was presented October 22 at the 77th Annual Scientific meeting by the American College of Gastroenterology in Las Vegas.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012