Over a nine year period a total of 137 patients were investigated for obscure gastrointestinal bleeding on one surgical unit. In 20 patients visceral angiography strongly suggested the presence of caecal or right colonic angiodysplasia. These patients were treated by an appropriate colectomy and they are not considered further in this study. Similarly lesions of the small bowel detected by preoperative investigations are not considered here. Fifty five patients were offered diagnostic laparotomy after the failure of other investigations to establish a diagnosis. Two patients refused. A diagnostic laparotomy was performed in the remaining 53. At operation if no visible lesion was seen an on table enteroscopy was performed using a colonoscope passed per oram and, if necessary, per anum. In nine (17%) patients no cause for bleeding was found. In 18 (34%) patients there was a small bowel vascular anomaly, in 14 (26%) a small bowel tumour, in four (7.5%) a bleeding Meckel's diverticulum, and in eight (15%) other miscellaneous lesions. Laparotomy, with on table enteroscopy where indicated, elucidated the cause of bleeding in 44 patients (83%). It was associated, however, with a postoperative death rate of 7.5% (four patients). After seemingly appropriate surgery, rebleeding occurred in 14 patients (26%). Of 18 patients with small bowel vascular anomalies seven rebled (39%), at an average follow up interval of 32 months.
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