Background: While the effectiveness of upper endoscopy has been established for acute nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage, its optimal timing has not been clearly defined. Early endoscopy has been advocated for its ability to achieve prompt diagnosis, risk stratification, and therapeutic hemostasis.
Objective: To determine whether early vs delayed endoscopy improves patient and economic outcomes for all risk groups with nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage.
Methods: A systematic review of 3 computerized databases (MEDLINE, HEALTHSTAR, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews) was performed along with hand searching of published abstracts to identify English-language citations from 1980 to 2000.
Results: Twenty-three studies met explicit inclusion criteria. The highest-quality study examining outcomes in low-risk patients found no significant complications at 1-month follow-up for any outpatients managed with early endoscopy. The largest randomized trial of high-risk patients showed no mortality benefit but a significant decrease in transfusion requirements with early endoscopy. Seven of the 8 studies examining the effect of early endoscopy on length of stay as a measure of resource utilization demonstrated a significant reduction compared with that of delayed endoscopy. However, most included studies were found to suffer from 1 or more potentially significant methodologic shortcomings.
Conclusions: The overwhelming majority of existing data suggest that early endoscopy is safe and effective for all risk groups. The clinical and economic outcomes of early endoscopy should be confirmed in additional well-designed randomized controlled trials. Given the strength of the evidence, efforts to develop a more standardized and time-sensitive approach to acute nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage should be undertaken.