Multipolar electrocoagulation in the treatment of active upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage. A prospective controlled trial

N Engl J Med. 1987 Jun 25;316(26):1613-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198706253162601.


The benefit of nonsurgical therapy in the treatment of active nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage is uncertain. I performed a prospective controlled trial of endoscopic multipolar electrocoagulation for active upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Patients were considered for entry if they had a bloody nasogastric aspirate, melena, or hematochezia, and any of the following: unstable vital signs, a requirement of greater than or equal to 2 units of blood per 12 hours, or a drop in hematocrit of greater than or equal to 6 percent in 12 hours. Forty-four patients were randomly assigned to receive multipolar electrocoagulation or sham multipolar electrocoagulation if endoscopy revealed active bleeding from an ulcer (24 patients), a Mallory-Weiss tear (17), or a vascular malformation (3). The group receiving multipolar electrocoagulation did significantly better in terms of hemostasis (90 percent vs. 13 percent, P less than 0.0001), mean (+/- SE) transfusion requirements (2.4 +/- 0.9 vs. 5.4 +/- 0.9 U; P = 0.002), mean number of hospital days (4.4 +/- 0.8 vs. 7.2 +/- 1.1, P = 0.02), and percentage needing emergency surgery or another intervention (14 vs. 57 percent, P = 0.01). Although mortality was lower in the group receiving multipolar electrocoagulation (0 vs. 13 percent), this difference was not statistically significant. The mean cost of hospitalization for treated patients was less than half that for the controls ($ 3,420 +/- 750 vs. $ 7,550 +/- 1,480, P = 0.001). I conclude that multipolar electrocoagulation markedly improves the hospital course in patients with major, nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electrocoagulation* / economics
  • Electrocoagulation* / methods
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Mallory-Weiss Syndrome / surgery
  • Peptic Ulcer Hemorrhage / surgery
  • Prospective Studies