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Ann Surg. 1994 Sep;220(3):353-60; discussion 360-3.

Optimal therapy for stress gastritis.

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Department of Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle.



The authors compared the results of sucralfate versus H2 blocker +/- antacid as prophylaxis for stress ulceration in an intensive care unit patient population.


Stress ulceration carries high morbidity and mortality for the patient who is critically ill. Gastric acid neutralization is an effective prophylaxis. The impact of increased gastric colonization with bacterial pathogens on nosocomial pneumonia after acid neutralization is unclear. The efficacy of sucralfate prophylaxis for stress ulceration and its the effect on the nosocomial pneumonia rate is controversial. The financial implications of sucralfate prophylaxis versus H2 blocker-based acid neutralization therapy has not been studied.


Ninety-eight injured patients who were critically ill and who required intubation and intensive care unit (ICU) support for at least 72 hours without gastric feeding were randomized and received either maximal H2 blocker infusion therapy (continuous infusion of ranitidine at 0.25 mg/kg/hr after a loading dose of 0.5 mg/kg) plus antacids (for persistent pH < 4) or sucralfate (1 g every 6 hours via nasogastric tube) for stress ulcer prophylaxis. Efficacy in preventing stress ulcer complications was determined. The impact of each therapeutic approach on development of nosocomial pneumonia was evaluated. The charges/cost for each approach was analyzed.


Heme-positive gastric aspirates occurred in 99% of the patients, whereas 12 (7 in the H2 blocker group and 5 in the sucralfate group) were grossly positive for blood. However, only one from each group required transfusion, and one in the H2 blocker group required operation. Gastric colonization preceded tracheobronchial colonization in five patients in the H2 blocker group and one patient in the sucralfate group; simultaneous gastric/oropharyngeal colonization preceded positive tracheobronchial growth in six patients who received H2 blocker and one patient who received sucralfate. The overall pneumonia rate was 27.5% in the H2 blocker group and 20.8% in the sucralfate group (p = 0.48). Days on ventilator were 13.5 versus 9.1, (p = 0.06), ICU lengths of stay were 14.7 versus 10.2 (p = 0.06), and hospital lengths of stay were 27.8 versus 20.0 (p = 0.029) for the H2 blocker group and sucralfate group, respectively. Based on current charges and protocols for optimal H2 blocker and sucralfate prophylaxis, use of sucralfate rather than H2 blockers would decrease the annual cost by more than $30,000 per bed.


Sucralfate is as efficacious as maximal H2 blocker therapy for stress ulceration prophylaxis, and may have a beneficial effect on the incidence of nosocomial pneumonia. Sucralfate has a major reduction on nursing requirements for stress ulcer prophylaxis and would save approximately $30,000 per ICU bed per year in patient charges.

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