Background: Ageing populations are increasing in many countries and bleeding peptic ulcers in patients older than 60 years carry a greater risk of rebleeding and death. This study aimed to identify the risk factors for rebleeding and death in very elderly patients with peptic ulcer bleeding. The efficacy of treatment in preventing recurrent bleeding and death in this group of patients was also studied by means of prospective data collection and analysis. Methods: Data relating to 1744 patients treated between September 1985 and January 1994 for peptic ulcer bleeding were collected prospectively and analysed. Patients were stratified by age to one of three groups: group 1 (less than 60 years, n = 833), group 2 (60-79 years, n = 706) and group 3 (80 or more years, n = 205). Results: Univariate and multivariate analyses of 21 factors possibly affecting either rebleeding or death identified age greater than 80 years as one of the factors significantly affecting rebleeding and death. In a comparison of groups 1, 2 and 3, the likelihood of rebleeding and death was significantly greater in group 3. Univariate and multivariate analyses for rebleeding and death were performed for each group. The severity of initial bleeding had a marked bearing on subsequent rebleeding rates for all three groups. In group 3, however, large ulcer size and impaired liver function were additional factors which correlated significantly with final outcome. No rebleeding or morbidity occurred when endoscopic treatment was performed early for patients in group 3 but there was a significantly greater risk of further recurrent haemorrhage and treatment-related morbidity when treatment was performed after the onset of rebleeding. Conclusion: Patients aged 80 years or greater had the highest risk of rebleeding and death. For patients below 80 years of age, significant factors related to a fatal outcome included co-morbid illness, complications and the need for mechanical ventilation. For patients aged 80 years or older, the significant factors were ulcer size greater than 2 cm and admission with serum bilirubin level above 20 mmol/l. Endoscopic treatment for the very elderly was effective if carried out early.
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