A six month, double blind, controlled study was performed in 107 asymptomatic duodenal ulcer patients who, after short term cimetidine treatment, showed complete or incomplete endoscopic healing. Patients were stratified according to the type of healing and randomly allocated to cimetidine (200 mg at lunch, 400 mg at bedtime) or placebo. Endoscopic examinations were carried out after six months or when symptoms recurred. Eighty seven patients completed the maintenance trial. Of the 56 patients admitted to the study with complete healing, 30 were placed on cimetidine and 26 on placebo. Of the 31 patients admitted with incomplete healing, 15 were placed on cimetidine, and 16 on placebo. Results showed that, regardless of maintenance treatment, patients with incompletely healed ulcers had a higher ulcer crater recurrence rate, than patients with complete healing (71% vs 34%; p less than 0.005). A significantly higher ulcer crater recurrence was observed in incompletely healed ulcer patients, even when cimetidine or placebo treatment groups were considered separately. Irrespective of the type of healing, ulcer crater recurrence was more frequent in placebo treated patients than in those treated with cimetidine (67% vs 29%; p less than 0.001). We conclude that, in order to prevent a high ulcer recurrence rate, maintenance treatment should start only after the assessment of a complete endoscopic healing of duodenal ulcers.
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