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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Sep 15;24(6):897-908.

Review article: gastrointestinal bleeding with low-dose aspirin - what's the risk?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, U.S.C. School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


This review examines ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding with low-dose aspirin, focusing on randomized placebo-controlled trials. The single endoscopic trial assessing ulcers showed no significant difference in 12-week ulcer incidence: 6% of 381 given placebo vs. 7% of 387 given 81 mg enteric-coated aspirin. The relative risk of major gastrointestinal bleeding with low-dose aspirin in a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials of vascular protection was 2.07 (95% CI: 1.61-2.66). The absolute rate increase with aspirin above placebo was 0.12% per year (95% CI: 0.07-0.19%) with a number-needed-to-harm of 833 patients (95% CI: 526-1429). A meta-analysis of aspirin 50-1500 mg daily reported an odds ratio for any gastrointestinal bleeding of 1.68 (95% CI: 1.51-1.88) with an number-needed-to-harm at 1 year of 247. The relative risk of hospitalization for upper gastrointestinal bleeding with low-dose aspirin in a large Danish cohort study was 2.6 (95% CI: 2.2-2.9) with an absolute annual incidence of 0.6%. Factors that may increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding include prior history of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding, corticosteroid use, anticoagulant therapy and addition of a non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. When determining whether low-dose aspirin is appropriate for an individual patient, the cardiovascular benefit must be weighed against the potential for clinical events such as gastrointestinal bleeding.

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