An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers.
Duodenal ulcers; Gastric ulcers; Helicobacter pylori; H. pylori
When a patient comes to the hospital with bleeding ulcers, endoscopy is usually performed. This procedure is critical for the diagnosis, determination of treatment options, and treatment of bleeding ulcers.
In high-risk patients or those with evidence of bleeding, options include watchful waiting with medical treatments or surgery. The first critical steps for massive bleeding are to stabilize the patient and support vital functions with fluid replacement and possibly blood transfusions. People on NSAIDs should stop taking these drugs, if possible.
Depending on the intensity of the bleeding, patients can be released from the hospital within a day or kept in the hospital for up to 3 days after endoscopy. Bleeding stops spontaneously in about 70 - 80% of patients, but about 30% of patients who come to the hospital for bleeding ulcers need surgery. Endoscopy is the surgical procedure most often used for treating bleeding ulcers and patients at high-risk for rebleeding. It is usually combined with medications, such as epinephrine and intravenous proton pump inhibitors.
Between 10 - 20% of patients require more invasive procedures for bleeding, such as major abdominal surgery.
Endoscopy is important for both diagnosing and treating bleeding ulcers. The doctor first places a thin, flexible plastic tube called an endoscope into the patient's mouth and down the esophagus into the stomach.
Endoscopy for Diagnosing Bleeding Ulcers and Determining Risk of Rebleeding. With endoscopy, doctors are able to detect the signs of bleeding, such as active spurting or oozing of blood from arteries. Endoscopy can also detect specific features in the ulcers referred to as stigmata, which indicate a higher or lower risk of rebleeding.
Endoscopy as Treatment. Endoscopy is usually used to treat bleeding from visible vessels that are less than 2 mm in diameter. This approach also appears to be very effective at preventing rebleeding in patients whose ulcers are not bleeding, but who have high-risk features (swollen blood vessels or clots adhering to ulcers).
The following is a typical endoscopy procedure:
Endoscopy is effective at controlling bleeding in most appropriate candidates. If rebleeding occurs, a repeat endoscopy is effective in about 75% of patients. Those who fail to respond require major abdominal surgery. The most serious complication from endoscopy is perforation of the stomach or intestinal wall.
Other Medical Considerations. Certain medications may be needed after endoscopy:
Major abdominal surgery for bleeding ulcers is now generally performed only when endoscopy fails or is not appropriate. Certain emergencies may require surgical repair, such as when an ulcer perforates the wall of the stomach or intestine, causing sudden intense pain and life-threatening infection.
Surgical Approaches. The standard major surgical approach (called open surgery) uses a wide abdominal incision and standard surgical instruments. Laparoscopic techniques use small abdominal incisions, through which are inserted tubes that contain miniature cameras and instruments. Laparoscopic techniques are increasingly being used for perforated ulcers. Research finds that laparoscopic surgery for a perforated peptic ulcer is comparable in safety with open surgery, and results in less pain after the procedure.
Major Surgical Procedures. There are a number of surgical procedures aimed at providing long-term relief of ulcer complications. These include:
Antrectomy and pyloroplasty are usually performed with vagotomy.
Bertleff M, Helm JA, Bemelman WA, van der Ham AC, van der Harst E, Oei HI, et al. Randomized clinical trial of laparoscopic versus open repair of the perforated peptic ulcer: The LAMA Trial. World J Surg. 2009;33(7):1368-1373.
Chey WD, Wong BC. Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. American College of Gastroenterology guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am J Gastroenterol. 2007;102(8):1808-1825.
Grainek IM, Barkun AN, Bardou M. Management of acute bleeding from a peptic ulcer. N Engl J Med. 2008;359(9):928-937.
Kim JI, Cheung DY, Cho SH, et al. Oral proton pump inhibitors are as effective as endoscopic treatment for bleeding peptic ulcer: a prospective, randomized, controlled trial. Dig Dis Sci. 2007;52(12):3371-3376.
Lanza FL, Chan FK, Quigley EM. Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. Guidelines for prevention of NSAID-related ulcer complications. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(3):728-738.
Luo J, Nordenvall C, Nyren O, et al. The risk of pancreatic cancer in patients with gastric or duodenal ulcer disease. Int J Cancer. 2007;120(2):368-372.
Malagelada J-R, KuipersMartin EJ, Blaser J. Acid Peptic Disease: Clinical manifestations, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis. In: Goldman: Cecil Medicine, 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders, 2007.
Mercer DW, Robinson EK. Stomach. In: Townsend: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders, 2007.
Pietroiusti A, Forlini A, Magrini A, et al. Shift work increases the frequency of duodenal ulcer in H. pylori infected workers. Occup Environ Med. 2006;63(11):773-775.
Ramakrishnan K, Salinas RC. Peptic ulcer disease. Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(7):1005-1012.
Saif MW, Elfiky A, Salem RR. Gastrointestinal perforation due to bevacizumab in colorectal cancer. Ann Surg Oncol. 2007;14(6):1860-1869.
Taha AS, McCloakwy C, Prasad R, Bezlyak V. Famotidine for the prevention of peptic ulcers and oesophagitis in patients taking low-dose aspirin (FAMOUS): A phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2009:doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61246-0.
Take S, Mizuno M, Ishiki K, et al. Baseline gastric mucosal atrophy is a risk factor associated with the development of gastric cancer after Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy in patients with peptic ulcer disease. J Gastroenterol. 2007;42(suppl 17):21-27.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885