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Influencing the practice and outcome in acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage
  1. T A Rockall,
  2. R F A Logan,
  3. H B Devlin,
  4. T C Northfield on behalf of the Steering Committee of the National Audit of Acute Upper Gastrointestinal Haemorrhage
  1. Mr T A Rockall,Surgical Epidemiology and Audit Unit, Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC1A 3PN, UK.


Aims To assess changes in practice and outcome in acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage following the feedback of data, the reemphasis of national guidelines, and specific recommendations following an initial survey.

Design A prospective, multicentre, audit cycle. Forty five hospitals from three health regions participed in two phases of the audit cycle.

Patients Phase I: 2332 patients with acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage; phase II: 1625 patients with upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage.

Methods Patients were evaluated with respect to management (with reference to the recommendations in the national guidelines), mortality, and length of hospital stay.

Results Following the distribution of data from the first phase of the National Audit and the formulation of specific recommendations for improving practice, the proportion of hospitals with local guidelines or protocols for the management of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage rose from 71% (32/45) to 91% (41/45); 12 of the 32 hospitals with guidelines during the first phase revised their guidelines following the initial survey. There was a small but significant increase in the proportion of all patients who underwent endoscopy (from 81% to 86%), the proportion who underwent endoscopy within 24 hours of admission (from 50% to 56%), and the use of central venous pressure monitoring in patients with organ failure requiring blood transfusion or those with profound shock (from 30% to 43%). There was, however, no change in the use of high dependency beds or joint medical/surgical management in high risk cases. There was no significant change in crude or risk standardised mortality (13.4% in the first phase and 14.4% in the second phase).

Conclusions Although many of the participating hospitals have made efforts to improve practice by producing or updating guidelines or protocols, there has been only a small demonstrable change in some areas of practice during the National Audit. The failure to detect any improvement in mortality may reflect this lack of change of practice, but may also reflect the fact that a large proportion of the deaths in this unselected study are not preventable; only a very large study could hope to demonstrate a significant change out of the context of a clinical trial.

  • acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage

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