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Acute Med. 2011;10(1):45-9.

The patient with haematemesis and melaena.

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Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London, NW3 2QG.


Bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a common medical emergency, with an incidence of between 50-150 cases per 100,000 per year.1 A recent audit by the British Society of Gastroenterology showed the mortality rate from upper GI bleeds has fallen from 14%2 in 1993 to 10% in 2007.3 However, despite the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), admission rates for peptic ulcer haemorrhage have increased in older age groups,4 probably related to increased use of antiplatelet agents such as aspirin and clopidogrel and anticoagulants in acute coronary syndromes, stroke and atrial fibrillation. The rising age of the population may also have offset further reductions in mortality and morbidity that may have otherwise come about through improved supportive and endoscopic care.

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