Impact of upper and lower gastrointestinal blood loss on healthcare utilization and costs: a systematic review

J Med Econ. 2011;14(3):279-87. doi: 10.3111/13696998.2011.571328. Epub 2011 Apr 1.


Objectives: Gastrointestinal (GI) blood loss is a common medical condition which can have serious morbidity and mortality consequences and may pose an enormous burden on healthcare utilization. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review to evaluate the impact of upper and lower GI blood loss on healthcare utilization and costs.

Methods: We performed a systematic search of peer-reviewed English articles from MEDLINE published between 1990 and 2010. Articles were limited to studies with patients ≥18 years of age, non-pregnant women, and individuals without anemia of chronic disease, renal disease, cancer, congestive heart failure, HIV, iron-deficiency anemia or blood loss due to trauma or surgery. Two reviewers independently assessed abstract and article relevance.

Results: Eight retrospective articles were included which used medical records or claims data. Studies analyzed resource utilization related to medical care although none of the studies assessed indirect resource use or costs. All but one study limited assessment of healthcare utilization to hospital use. The mean cost/hospital admission for upper GI blood loss was reported to be in the range $3180-8990 in the US, $2500-3000 in Canada and, in the Netherlands, the mean hospital cost/per blood loss event was €11,900 for a bleeding ulcer and €26,000 for a bleeding and perforated ulcer. Mean cost/ hospital admission for lower GI blood loss was $4800 in Canada, and $40,456 for small bowel bleeding in the US.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the impact of GI blood loss on healthcare costs is substantial but studies are limited. Additional investigations are needed which examine both direct and indirect costs as well as healthcare costs by source of GI blood loss focusing on specific populations in order to target treatment pathways for patients with GI blood loss.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Developed Countries
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / economics*
  • Health Services / economics*
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult