Background: There is a well-documented relationship, with unknown aetiology, between aortic valve stenosis and occult gastrointestinal bleeding in elderly patients. Despite several studies attempting to determine the prevalence and to discuss the aetiology, there are still many unanswered questions.
Methods: A total of 288 consecutive patients with valvular aortic stenosis--mean age 73 +/- 9 years aortic stenosis group (ASG)--were compared with 129 pacemaker-treated patients, mean age 73 +/- 9 years control group (CG). Screening for occult blood in stools was performed in both groups. Those with a positive Hemocult test or a history of gastrointestinal bleeding were scheduled for further examination including upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. Template bleeding time was performed on patients in both groups and in patients with a prolonged bleeding time with an extended coagulation evaluation was carried out. Patients referred to aortic valve replacement and with a preoperatively prolonged bleeding time were re-examined after surgery.
Results: There was a significant difference in the number of subjects with prolonged bleeding time between groups (ASG 19; CG 2; P = 0.028). Re-examination of the bleeding time after aortic valve surgery revealed normalized values in nine of 12 (P = 0.0003). The number of patients with positive Hemocult test did not differ between groups (ASG 29; CG 12; NS). Comparison of the pressure gradient over the aortic valve demonstrated a significantly higher maximal gradient amongst patients with a preoperatively prolonged bleeding time (113 mm HG vs. 90 mmHG; P = 0.005).
Conclusion: Prolonged bleeding time is related to valvular aortic stenosis and seems to be caused by acquired platelet dysfunction. The normalization of the bleeding time after valve surgery supports the hypothesis that the calcified cusps may interact with the platelet function.