The Utility of Urgent Colonoscopy in the Evaluation of Acute Lower Gastrointestinal Tract Bleeding: A 2-Year Experience From a Single Center

Angtuaco, Terence L.; Reddy, Sanjay K.; Drapkin, Sol; Harrell, Laura E.; Howden, Colin W.
June 2001
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Jun2001, Vol. 96 Issue 6, p1782
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVE: Urgent colonoscopy is often recommended to evaluate acute rectal bleeding. However, it may not identify a source because of blood in the lumen or inadequate preparation. Our aim was to determine the utility of urgent colonoscopy as the initial test for acute rectal bleeding. METHODS: This was a retrospective chart review of all patients discharged in 1997 and 1998 with an International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, code for hematochezia or rectal bleeding. RESULTS: We identified 514 charts but excluded 424 because of inaccurate coding. In the 90 with confirmed acute rectal bleeding, colonoscopy was the initial test in 39; age, sex, and race distributions were similar to those who did not have colonoscopy. A definite source of bleeding was seen at colonoscopy in only three patients, a probable source in 26, and no source in 10. Therapeutic intervention in four patients with a definite or probable source was successful in three. The commonest reasons for not performing urgent colonoscopy were bleeding from presumed hemorrhoids or bleeding that was clinically insignificant. Spontaneous resolution of bleeding and length of hospital stay were not affected by urgent colonoscopy. Five patients had surgery for unrelated reasons. In-hospital mortality was 2% and was unrelated to bleeding. CONCLUSION: Urgent colonoscopy as the initial investigation in acute lower GI tract bleeding probably does not alter the outcome in most cases. Identification of a definite bleeding source leading to successful therapeutic intervention is rare. Spontaneous resolution is frequent, length of hospital stay is similar, and clinical outcome is excellent regardless of whether or not urgent colonoscopy is performed.


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