Objectives: We sought to determine, in patients with serious hematochezia, the proportion who have an upper gastrointestinal (GI) source and whether urgent colonoscopy improves outcomes as compared with elective colonoscopy in those without an upper source.
Methods: Patients with hematochezia were eligible if they also had heart rate >100, systolic blood pressure <100, orthostatic change in heart rate or blood pressure >20, hemoglobin drop ≥ 1.5 g/dl, or blood transfusion. Patients had upper endoscopy within 6 h. Those without an upper source were randomized to urgent (≤ 12 h) or elective (36-60 h after presentation) colonoscopy. The primary end point was further bleeding. Patients were followed for the duration of hospitalization.
Results: Eighty-five eligible patients had urgent upper endoscopy; 13 (15%) had an upper source. The remaining 72 were randomized to urgent (N=36) or elective (N=36) colonoscopy. Further bleeding occurred in 8 (22%) vs. 5 (14%) of the urgent vs. elective groups (difference=8%, 95% confidence interval (CI)=-9 to 26%). Units of blood (1.5 vs. 0.7), hospital days (5.2 vs. 4.8), subsequent diagnostic or therapeutic interventions for bleeding (36% vs. 33%), and hospital charges ($27,590 vs. $26,633) also were not lower in the urgent group. A major limitation is that the study was terminated before reaching the prespecified sample size.
Conclusions: Patients with clinically serious hematochezia should have upper endoscopy initially to rule out an upper GI source. Use of urgent colonoscopy in a population hospitalized with serious lower GI bleeding showed no evidence of improving clinical outcomes or lowering costs as compared with routine elective colonoscopy.