Incidence of Upper and Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding in New Users of Low-Dose Aspirin

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Apr;17(5):887-895.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.05.061. Epub 2018 Jun 14.


Background & aims: There are few data on the incidence of upper and lower gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB and LGIB) from observational studies of low-dose aspirin users. We aimed to estimate incidence rates of UGIB and LGIB in a large cohort of new users of low-dose aspirin in the United Kingdom, with subanalyses of hospitalization status and fatalities.

Methods: We performed a population-based study of 199,079 new users of low-dose aspirin (median age, 64.0 years) identified from the Health Improvement Network primary care database (2000-2012). Individuals were followed for a median 5.4 years (maximum, 14 years) to identify new cases of UGIB and LGIB. Following multistep validation, we calculated overall and age- and sex-specific incidence rates; we performed subanalyses for health care use and death within 30 days of GIB. We also estimated rates within a matched (1:1) cohort of nonusers of low-dose aspirin at the start of the follow-up period.

Results: The low-dose aspirin users had 1115 UGIB events and 1936 LGIB events; most subjects with UGIB events (58.9%) were hospitalized, whereas most subjects with LGIB events were referred to secondary care (72.8%). Crude incidence rates of GIB per 1000 person-years were 0.97 for subjects with UGIB (95% CI, 0.91-1.02) and 1.68 for subjects with LGIB (95% CI, 1.60-1.75). Incidence rates per 1000 person-years for patients hospitalized for GIB were 0.57 for UGIB (95% CI, 0.53-0.61) and 0.45 for LGIB (95% CI, 0.42-0.49); for referred (but not hospitalized) cases, these values were 0.39 for UGIB (95% CI, 0.36-0.43) and 1.22 for LGIB (1.16-1.29). Incidence rates per 1000 person-years were 0.06 for fatal UGIB (95% CI, 0.04-0.07), 0.01 for fatal LGIB (95% CI, 0.01-0.02), 0.91 for nonfatal UGIB (95% CI, 0.86-0.97), and 1.66 for nonfatal LGIB (95% CI, 1.59-1.74). Among nonusers of low-dose aspirin, incidence rates per 1000 person-years were 0.67 (95% CI, 0.63-0.75) for UGIB and 0.76 (95% CI, 0.72-0.82) for LGIB.

Conclusion: In a population-based study of low-dose aspirin users, the incidence of LGIB was higher than the incidence of UGIB. However, incidence rates of hospitalized GI bleeds and 30-day mortality rates were lower for LGIB than for UGIB. These estimates are valuable for benefit-risk assessments of low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular and colorectal cancer prevention.

Keywords: Ischemic Vascular Disease Prophylaxis; Major Bleeding; Observational Study; UK.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin / adverse effects*
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / chemically induced*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Survival Analysis
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Aspirin