Acute peptic ulcer bleeding is associated with a substantial short term mortality but it is generally assumed that in the modern era of effective medical treatment the longer term prognosis is good. This study evaluated 487 patients aged over 60 years who were discharged from Nottingham University and City Hospitals after admission for acute peptic ulcer bleeding during 1986-91 and 480 age and sex matched community controls. Follow up information was obtained from hospital and general practitioner records and from the National Health Service central register. Mortality was compared with control mortality and with rates expected for England and Wales. During a mean follow up of 34 months 142 (29%) of 487 patients died compared with 58 (12%) of 480 community controls and with 81.5 deaths expected (observed/expected (O/E) = 1.74, 95% confidence limits (CL) 1.5 to 2.1). Six years after admission the actuarial survival estimate was only 50% for ulcer patients compared with 76% for community controls and 69% expected. The increased mortality was similar in men and women and was greatest in the 60-74 year age group. Much of the excess mortality was accounted for by deaths from cancer (O/E 34/19.7 = 1.73; CL 1.2 to 2.4), from respiratory disease (O/E 28/10.9 = 2.57; CL 1.7 to 3.7), and in men from vascular disease (O/E 31/22.4 = 1.38; CL 0.9 to 2.0). Eight deaths resulted from recurrent ulcer complications and four deaths from gastric cancers undetected at the index admission. In conclusion, patients discharged after peptic ulcer bleeding had a substantially reduced life expectancy. The increased mortality was predominantly due to a variety of smoking related diseases rather than recurrent peptic ulcer complications. Deaths from recurrent peptic ulcer complications were infrequent and were less than reported in earlier years possibly reflecting prolonged and widespread used of H2 receptor antagonists.
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