Review article: the management of lower gastrointestinal bleeding

Authors

  • J. J. Farrell,

    1. *Division of Digestive Diseases, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA ; †Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA ; Departments of Medicine, ‡Newton Wellesley Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, and §Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • L. S. Friedman

    1. *Division of Digestive Diseases, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA ; †Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA ; Departments of Medicine, ‡Newton Wellesley Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, and §Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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Dr J. J. Farrell, Division of Digestive Diseases, UCLA School of Medicine, UCLA Center for the Health Science, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
E-mail: jfarrell@mednet.ucla.edu

Summary

Several recent advances have been made in the evaluation and management of acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding. This review focuses on the management of lower gastrointestinal bleeding, especially acute severe bleeding.

The aim of the study was to critically review the published literature on important management issues in lower gastrointestinal bleeding, including haemodynamic resuscitation, diagnostic evaluation, and endoscopic, radiologic, and surgical therapy, and to develop an algorithm for the management of lower gastrointestinal bleeding, based on this literature review.

Publications pertaining to lower gastrointestinal bleeding were identified by searches of the MEDLINE database for the years 1966 to December 2004. Clinical trials and review articles were specifically identified, and their reference citation lists were searched for additional publications not identified in the database searches. Clinical trials and current clinical recommendations were assessed by using commonly applied criteria. Specific recommendations are made based on the evidence reviewed.

Approximately, 200 original and review articles were reviewed and graded. There is a paucity of high-quality evidence to guide the management of lower gastrointestinal bleeding, and current endoscopic, radiologic, and surgical practices appear to reflect local expertise and availability of services. Endoscopic literature supports the role of urgent colonoscopy and therapy where possible. Radiology literature supports the role of angiography, especially after a positive bleeding scan has been obtained. Limited surgical data support the role of segmental resection in the management of persistent lower gastrointestinal bleeding after localization by either colonoscopy or angiography.

There is limited high-quality research in the area of lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Recent advances have improved the endoscopic, radiologic and surgical management of this problem. However, treatment decisions are still often based on local expertise and preference. With increased access to urgent therapeutic endoscopy for the management of acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding, diagnostic and therapeutic colonoscopy can be expected to play an increasing role in the management of acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding.

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