Aims: To describe patterns of health care management in patients with upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage and to identify factors linked to the different patterns.
Patients and methods: We conducted a prospective study of patients over 18 with upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage (inpatients excluded) among all public hospitals and private practice gastroenterologists in 4 French administrative areas (3 in Northern France and one in the South West).
Results: One thousand six hundred and two patients were included over a six-month period (1996). An endoscopic procedure was performed in 1532 patients in public (70%) or private (20.5%) hospitals, or at private office (9.5%). Hospitalization was necessary in 78.8% of the patients in university, non university public or private hospitals (38.9, 45.5 and 15.6%, respectively) with a median duration of 6.5 days. Admission was associated to old age, short delay between hemorrhage and endoscopic procedure, previous gastrointestinal bleeding, cirrhosis or cancer, bleeding from peptic ulcer or esogastric varices. Endoscopic hemostasis was performed in 21.4% of the patients, more often in university and no university public hospitals. Surgery was necessary in 4% of the patients. Death rate was 10.7%. Important geographical variations were observed concerning referral patterns. Patients' characteristics did not differ between the 4 areas. On the other hand, health care supply provided in the management of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage was different in the four French geographical areas.
Conclusion: a) An initial endoscopic procedure is nearly always performed in patients with an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage in France; in 1 patient out of 10, endoscopy was performed in a private gastroenterologist office; b) hospital admission was strongly related to epidemiological and clinical criteria of severity; c) the geographical variations observed in referral patterns depend in part on health care supply; d) upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage status could be used as an indicator of the quality of health care organizations.