Gastric stress ulceration and bleeding are common occurrences in the critically ill and prophylactic acid-suppression is used almost universally in this population. Evidence suggests that general medical patients hospitalized outside of the intensive care unit often receive similar therapy.
To determine how frequently general medical patients are prescribed stress ulcer prophylaxis and what evidence exists for doing so.
The MEDLINE database (1966 to October 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (4th Quarter 2005), and the bibliographies of selected articles.
Studies that contained significant data about either the frequency of use of stress ulcer prophylaxis in general medical patients or gastrointestinal bleeding outcomes in patients given prophylaxis.
The primary author extracted prevalence and outcome data.
Descriptive studies suggest that 20–25% of general medical patients receive acid suppression for stress ulcer prophylaxis in the absence of presumed (but not established) risk factors for bleeding. Only two randomized, controlled trials evaluated the effects of prophylaxis in this population. The first found a reduction in clinically significant gastrointestinal bleeding from 6% (3 of 48) with placebo to zero (n = 52) with magaldrate. The second found a reduction in clinically significant bleeding from 3% (2 of 70) with sucralfate to zero (n = 74) with cimetidine.
A significant number of general medical patients are prescribed acid-suppressive therapy for stress ulcer prophylaxis. The literature provides only sparse guidance on this issue with two randomized trials showing a possible benefit for prophylaxis. Further study is needed. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2007;2:86–92. © 2007 Society of Hospital Medicine.