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Gastroenterology. 2008 Jul;135(1):41-60. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.05.030. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Gastric mucosal defense and cytoprotection: bench to bedside.

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  • 1Division of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, Department of Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


The gastric mucosa maintains structural integrity and function despite continuous exposure to noxious factors, including 0.1 mol/L HCl and pepsin, that are capable of digesting tissue. Under normal conditions, mucosal integrity is maintained by defense mechanisms, which include preepithelial factors (mucus-bicarbonate-phospholipid "barrier"), an epithelial "barrier" (surface epithelial cells connected by tight junctions and generating bicarbonate, mucus, phospholipids, trefoil peptides, prostaglandins (PGs), and heat shock proteins), continuous cell renewal accomplished by proliferation of progenitor cells (regulated by growth factors, PGE(2) and survivin), continuous blood flow through mucosal microvessels, an endothelial "barrier," sensory innervation, and generation of PGs and nitric oxide. Mucosal injury may occur when noxious factors "overwhelm" an intact mucosal defense or when the mucosal defense is impaired. We review basic components of gastric mucosal defense and discuss conditions in which mucosal injury is directly related to impairment in mucosal defense, focusing on disorders with important clinical sequelae: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-associated injury, which is primarily related to inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX)-mediated PG synthesis, and stress-related mucosal disease (SRMD), which occurs with local ischemia. The annual incidence of NSAID-associated upper gastrointestinal (GI) complications such as bleeding is approximately 1%-1.5%; and reductions in these complications have been demonstrated with misoprostol, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) (only documented in high-risk patients), and COX-2 selective inhibitors. Clinically significant bleeding from SRMD is relatively uncommon with modern intensive care. Pharmacologic therapy with antisecretory drugs may be used in high-risk patients (eg, mechanical ventilation >or=48 hours), although the absolute risk reduction is small, and a decrease in mortality is not documented.

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