Epidemiology of acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2008;22(2):209-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2007.10.011.


Acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding is an important emergency situation. Population-based epidemiology data are important to get insight in the actual healthcare problem. There are only few recent epidemiological surveys regarding acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Several surveys focusing on peptic ulcer disease showed a significant decrease in admission and mortality of peptic ulcer disease. Several more recent epidemiological surveys show a decrease in incidence of all cause upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The incidence of peptic ulcer bleeding remained stable. Peptic ulcer bleeding is the most common cause of upper gastrointestinal bleeding, responsible for about 50% of all cases, followed by oesophagitis and erosive disease. Variceal bleeding is the cause of bleeding in cirrhotic patients in 50-60%. Rebleeding in upper gastrointestinal bleeding occurs in 7-16%, despite endoscopic therapy. Rebleeding is especially high in variceal bleeding and peptic ulcer bleeding. Mortality ranges between 3 and 14% and did not change in the past 10 years. Mortality is increasing with increasing age and is significantly higher in patients who are already admitted in hospital for co-morbidity. Risk factors for peptic ulcer bleeding are NSAIDs use and H. pylori infection. In patients at risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and using NSAIDs, a protective drug was only used in 10%. COX-2 selective inhibitors do cause less gastroduodenal ulcers compared to non-selective NSAIDs, however, more cardiovascular adverse events are reported. H. pylori infection is found in about 50% of peptic ulcer bleeding patients. H. pylori should be tested for in all ulcer patients and eradication should be given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / complications
  • Esophagitis / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Peptic Ulcer Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors