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Updated international consensus recommendations on management of acute upper GI bleeding

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Updated advice on PPI therapy in acute upper GI bleeding

These updated consensus guidelines provide a rigorous review of evidence on managing nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The recommendations for patients on anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy will be particularly helpful because of increasing use of these medications. The advice on proton pump inhibitor therapy in patients on these drugs who have had previous ulcer bleeding can help allay concerns about possible integrations between PPIs and clopidogrel.

While the guidelines recommend using the Glasgow Blatchford scale to guide hospitalization decisions, prognostic scores are not commonly used in the emergency department, and many patients present with a Glasgow Blatchford score greater than 1, so this tool may have little impact on hospitalization rates. More studies are needed to compare clinical judgment with these prognostic scores.

Angel Lanas, MD, is from the University Clinic Hospital at the University of Zaragoza (Spain). These comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (Ann Intern Med 2019, October 22. doi: 10.7326/M19-2789). Dr. Lanas declared unrelated personal fees from the pharmaceutical sector.



Guidelines on the management of acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding have been updated, including recommendations on managing patients on antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy and on use of endoscopy and new therapeutic approaches.

Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, an international group of experts published an update to the 2010 International Consensus Recommendations on the Management of Patients With Nonvariceal Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding, with a focus on resuscitation and risk assessment; pre-endoscopic, endoscopic, and pharmacologic management; and secondary prophylaxis.

Alan N. Barkun, MDCM, MSc, from McGill University, Montreal, and coauthors first recommended that fluid resuscitation should be initiated in patients with acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding and hemodynamic instability to avoid hemorrhagic shock and restore end-organ perfusion and tissue oxygenation while the bleeding is brought under control.

They acknowledged the uncertainty around whether colloid or crystalloid fluid should be used, but suggested routine use of colloids was not justified because they were more expensive and did not appear to increase survival.

On the question of whether the resuscitation should be aggressive or restrictive in its timing and rate, the group said there was not enough evidence to support a recommendation on this. “The important issue in patients with hemorrhagic shock due to trauma or UGIB [upper gastrointestinal bleeding] is to stop the bleeding while minimizing hemodynamic compromise,” they wrote.

They also advised blood transfusions in patients with a hemoglobin level below 80 g/L who did not have underlying cardiovascular disease, but suggested a higher hemoglobin threshold for those with underlying cardiovascular disease.

The second recommendation was that patients with a Glasgow Blatchford score of 1 or less were at very low risk for rebleeding and mortality, and these patients may therefore not need hospitalization or inpatient endoscopy. They advised against using the AIMS65 prognostic score for this purpose because it was designed to identify patients at high risk of death, not those at low risk for safe discharge.

In regard to endoscopic management, they advocated that all patients with acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding – whether low or high risk – undergo endoscopy within 24 hours of presentation. This was even more urgent in patients being treated with anticoagulants. “Because of the recognized benefits of early endoscopy, coagulopathy should be treated as necessary but endoscopy should not be delayed,” they wrote.

Patients with acutely bleeding ulcers with high-risk stigmata should undergo endoscopic therapy preferably with thermocoagulation or sclerosant injection, or with hemoclips depending on the bleeding location and patient characteristics.

The group also included two conditional recommendations, based on very-low-quality evidence, that patients with actively bleeding ulcers receive TC-325 hemostatic powder as temporizing therapy to stop the bleeding if conventional endoscopic therapies aren’t available or fail. However, they stressed that TC-325 should not be used as a single therapeutic strategy.

Because of a lack of efficacy data and low availability of expertise in the technology, the authors said they could not make a recommendation for or against using a Doppler endoscopic probe (DEP) to assess the need for further endoscopic therapy.

“The group generally agreed that although making a recommendation for or against using DEP to manage UGIB is premature, DEP has the potential to alter the usual approach to visually assessing bleeding lesion risk when evaluating the need for, and adequacy of, endoscopic hemostasis.”

The guidelines also addressed the issue of pharmacologic management of acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding. They strongly recommended that patients with bleeding ulcers and high-risk stigmata who have undergone successful endoscopic therapy should then receive an intravenous loading dose of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy, followed by continuous intravenous infusion.

“Cost-effectiveness studies have suggested that high-dose intravenous PPIs after successful endoscopic hemostasis improve outcomes at a modest cost increase relative to non–high-dose intravenous or oral PPI strategies,” they wrote.

A second conditional recommendation, based on very-low-quality evidence, was that patients with a bleeding ulcer who were at high risk for rebleeding be also treated twice-daily with oral PPIs for 2 weeks, then once-daily. They also recommended patients on cardiovascular prophylaxis with single or dual antiplatelet therapy or anticoagulant therapy be given PPIs.

“The consensus group concluded that, for high-risk patients with an ongoing need for anticoagulants, the evidence suggests that the benefits of secondary prophylaxis outweigh the risks.”

The group was supported by a grant from CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes and from the Saudi Gastroenterology Association. Nine authors declared grants, personal fees, honoraria and other funding from the pharmaceutical and medical device sector outside the submitted work. No other conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Barkun A et al. Ann Intern Med 2019, October 22. doi: 10.7326/M19-1795.

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