Angiography for preoperative evaluation in patients with lower gastrointestinal bleeding: are the benefits worth the risks?

Arch Surg. 1998 Jan;133(1):50-5. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.133.1.50.


Objective: To evaluate the benefits and risks of selective angiography for the evaluation of acute lower gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding to identify the site of bleeding and theoretically limit the extent of colonic resection.

Design: Retrospective chart review.

Setting: Tertiary care hospital.

Patients: Sixty-five patients undergoing 75 selective angiograms for evaluation of acute lower GI bleeding. Mean age was 71 years (range, 27-93 years), and 37 (57%) were women.

Main outcome measures: Demographic data were collected that included any associated medical problems, potential factors contributing to an increased risk for bleeding, and the diagnostic methods used in evaluating the source of lower GI bleeding. The details of angiography procedures were recorded with special attention to the impact of the procedure on clinical management and any associated complications.

Results: Twenty-three patients (35%) had positive angiography findings, and 14 of them (61%) required operations. Forty-two patients (65%) had negative angiography findings, and 8 of them (19%) required operations. Surgery for the 22 patients included hemicolectomy in 11 patients, subtotal colectomy in 10 patients, and small-bowel tumor resection in 1 patient. In 9 patients, a hemicolectomy was performed on the basis of angiography findings. Three patients (2 with negative angiography findings) experienced rebleeding after a hemicolectomy and required a subsequent subtotal colectomy. Overall, only 8 (12%) of the 65 patients underwent a segmental colon resection that was based on angiography findings and did not bleed after their operation. Complications from angiography occurred in 7 patients (11%).

Conclusion: Selective angiography appears to add little clinically useful information in patients with acute lower GI bleeding and carries a relatively high complication risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography* / adverse effects
  • Colectomy
  • Diverticulum / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / surgery
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preoperative Care
  • Retrospective Studies