Bleeding peptic ulcer in the elderly is associated with use of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin, presenting a therapeutic dilemma for the treatment of survivors. To determine the longterm morbidity of patients surviving bleeding peptic ulcer and their treatment, with particular reference to NSAID use, this study followed up 487 patients aged over 60 years, who survived an episode of bleeding peptic ulcer in Nottingham during 1986 to 1991. Information was gathered by evaluation of general practitioner and hospital records, scrutiny of death certificates, and postal questionnaire to surviving patients. Of 487 patients surviving a bleeding peptic ulcer, 345 were alive at the follow up, a mean 34.2 months after discharge. Of these 201 (58%) had taken NSAIDs before their ulcer bleed (104 non-aspirin NSAIDs, 77 aspirin, 20 both). Compared with non-users, the patients using NSAIDs at the time of presentation were significantly more likely subsequently to consult their general practitioner with locomotor symptoms (56% v 35%, p < 0.001) and receive further NSAIDs (34% v 13%, p < 0.001), but significantly less likely to consult their general practitioner for dyspepsia (31% v 54%, p < 0.001). Antiulcer drug use was widespread in both groups, with an overall point prevalence of 44%. Seventy five patients received NSAIDs during the follow up period (69% with coprescription of antiulcer drugs, usually H2 antagonists). Recurrent peptic ulcer, ulcer complications, and ulcer related deaths were uncommon. Antiulcer drug use was lower in those with ulcer recurrence compared with the point prevalence in those without (17% v 44%, p < 0.05). Patient questionnaire responses confirmed a high level of locomotor symptoms especially in patients previously admitted with NSAID associated ulcer bleeding. In conclusion, in patients surviving peptic ulcer bleeding, recurrent ulcer complications and death seem to be lower than reported by studies that preceded the advent of antiulcer drugs. It is suggested that this low incidence may be a consequence of their use. Granted the low level of recurrent ulceration and the high level of locomotor symptoms in patients studied, current treatment may unduly emphasise the importance of stopping NSAIDs in this group of patients.
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