It has not been established whether multiple duodenal ulcer is associated with a different natural history, pathophysiology, and therapeutic response than a single duodenal ulcer. A consecutive series of 96 patients with two or more duodenal ulcers at endoscopy, representing 9.6% of the total number of new patients with duodenal ulcer seen during the period 1980-1985, were compared with a random series of 200 patients with single duodenal ulcer seen in the middle years of this period. Multiple duodenal ulcer was associated with higher (p less than 0.02) male to female ratio, more (p less than 0.05) late onset patients (those with ulcer symptoms starting after age 30 years, more (p less than 0.05) chronic cigarette smokers, and more frequent (p less than 0.05) moderate to severe deformity of the duodenal bulb. More (p less than 0.05) patients with multiple duodenal ulcer had abnormally low D50 derived from pentagastrin dose response tests, indicating that they were more sensitive to gastrin stimulation. Furthermore, their mean fasting and meal stimulated serum gastrin concentrations were significantly higher than those of patients with single ulcer (p less than 0.005), or of controls (p less than 0.05). Compared with single duodenal ulcer, multiple ulcer had significantly lower placebo healing rate, and required a higher dose of misoprostol (1200 v 800 micrograms/day) to achieve a similar healing efficacy at four weeks. We conclude that multiple duodenal ulcer is associated with different clinical features, pathophysiology, and possibly therapeutic response from single duodenal ulcer, and appears to represent the more aggressive side of the ulcer spectrum.
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