All patients presenting with acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding between November 1986 and April 1988 were admitted to a centralised joint medical/surgical unit, with a policy of early clinical and endoscopic assessment and rapid surgical intervention in those at high risk. Of the 430 patients admitted 69.5% were over the age of 60 and 30% had significant additional medical conditions. 50.4% were bleeding from peptic ulcers and one third had been taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Fifty five patients underwent surgery, which in two thirds was carried out within 24 hours of admission, usually for continued bleeding. In patients with peptic ulcer the operation rate was 21.6%. Overall mortality was 3.7%, and in those with bleeding gastric or duodenal ulcers 5.5%; surgical mortality in the later group was 15.2%. All patients who died had serious concomitant pathology and 87% were over 70 years of age. Adoption of a centralised approach to management of haematemasis and melaena is feasible in a District General Hospital and associated with an improved survival.
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