Importance: Evaluation of acute gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding using invasive endoscopic procedures comprising the standard of care (SOC)-upper endoscopy and colonoscopy-can expose the endoscopy staff to SARS-CoV-2. Video capsule endoscopy (VCE) does not generate aerosols and only requires 1 person to manage the procedure.
Objective: To examine the safety of VCE for the initial evaluation of GI bleeding at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to identify signs of active bleeding while minimizing patient and personnel exposure, saving personal protective equipment, and avoiding invasive or unnecessary procedures.
Design, setting, and participants: A multicenter (UMass Memorial Medical Center and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center) retrospective cohort study including 146 patients with COVID-19 who received VCE as the first-line diagnostic modality was conducted from March 15 to June 15, 2020, compared with SOC in January 2020 for evaluation of GI bleeding. The association between treatment and outcomes was estimated using multivariable regression adjusting for potential confounders. Propensity score matching was used to verify the results.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was detection of active bleeding or stigmata of recent bleeding. Secondary end points included the number of patients requiring any invasive procedures, number of additional procedures, rates of rebleeding and rehospitalization, transfusion requirements, and mortality.
Results: Among 146 patients, 92 (63.0%) were men; mean (SD) age was 64.93 (14.13) years in the COVID-19 group and 61.33 (13.39) years in the SOC group. Active bleeding or stigmata of recent bleeding was observed in 44 (59.5%) patients in the COVID-19 group compared with 18 (25.0%) in the SOC group (adjusted odds ratio, 5.23; 95% CI, 2.23 to 12.27). Only 36 patients (48.7%) in the COVID-19 group required any invasive procedure during the hospitalization compared with 70 (97.2%) in the SOC group (adjusted odds ratio, 0.01; 95% CI, 0.001 to 0.08). The mean (SD) number of invasive procedures was 0.59 (0.77) per patient in the COVID-19 group compared with 1.18 (0.48) per patient in the SOC group (adjusted difference, -0.54; 95% CI, -0.77 to -0.31). Both approaches appeared to be safe and there was no significant difference in transfusion requirements, rebleeding, rehospitalization, or in-hospital mortality. No mortality was attributed to GI bleeding in either group.
Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study, first-line diagnostic evaluation of acute GI bleeding using VCE appeared to be a safe and useful alternative to the traditional approach of upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. Use of VCE was associated with increased detection of active bleeding and a reduced number of invasive procedures and unnecessary exposure of personnel to SARS-CoV-2 and use of personal protective equipment.