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Crit Care Med. 1999 Jan;27(1):98-103.

National survey of stress ulcer prophylaxis.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 60612, USA.



To determine the rationale for using stress ulcer prophylaxis (SUP) among clinicians; to assess criteria used to define failure of SUP; and to evaluate the decision-making process in the selection of a prophylactic agent.


A cross-sectional national mail survey.


Random sample of the members of the Society of Critical Care Medicine who identified anesthesiology, surgery, or internal medicine as their primary specialty area.






Questionnaires consisting of multiple-choice and short-answer questions were sent to a simple random sample of 1,268 physicians to assess the current practice of SUP. A total of 328 usable questions were returned, resulting in a response rate of 26%. All percentages reported in the results are based on the total number of responses. The risk factors for SUP that were most commonly identified were burns (91%), shock (90%), and sepsis (88%). These were also risk factors for which the respondents most commonly started SUP. Histamine-2-receptor (H2)-antagonists as a class, were the most commonly used prophylactic agents (67%). The most commonly used agents for SUP were ranitidine (31%), famotidine (24%), sucralfate (24%), and cimetidine (12%). Most respondents selected ranitidine for ease of administration, famotidine because of formulary availability, sucralfate for a better side effects profile, and cimetidine for cost-effectiveness. Eighty-two percent of respondents considered the presence of bright red blood in the nasogastric tube as failure of SUP. In cases where SUP failed, most respondents would add a second agent from a different therapeutic class. Of those respondents who used an H2-antagonist initially, 48% would add sucralfate, 36% would add antacid, and 13% would add omeprazole. Of those respondents who used sucralfate, 77% would add an H2-antagonist when SUP failed. For those respondents who would switch to another agent when the H2-antagonist failed, 52% would change to omeprazole, whereas 67% would change to an H2-antagonist when sucralfate failed. Only eight respondents would discontinue SUP when risk factors were resolved. Most respondents would discontinue SUP when the patient was no longer in the "nothing by mouth" status (28%), started on enteral feeding (23%), or discharged from the intensive care unit (21%). The mean duration of SUP was 6.3+/-4.5 (SD) days.


This survey highlighted the lack of consensus in the use of SUP. Many patients receive SUP for an extended period, without clear-cut indications or documented benefit. The cost of unwarranted SUP in patients with low risk of stress ulcer gastrointestinal bleeding is prohibitive. Treatment algorithms or protocols for SUP based on prescribing patterns, hospital formulary restrictions, and cost-analysis should be considered for each institution to guide critical care physicians on the proper use of SUP therapies.

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