Lower gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are much more poorly characterized than upper gastrointestinal effects.


To determine if NSAIDs increase lower gastrointestinal adverse effects and if the risk with non-selective NSAIDs is greater than with cyclooxygenase-2-selective inhibitors (coxibs).


Computerized databases were searched to identify studies of NSAID use reporting on lower gastrointestinal integrity (e.g. permeability), visualization (e.g. erosions, ulcers) and clinical events.


Designs in 47 studies were randomized (18), case–control (14), cohort (eight) and before-after (seven). Non-selective-NSAIDs had significantly more adverse effects vs. no NSAIDs in 20 of 22 lower gastrointestinal integrity studies, five of seven visualization studies, seven of 11 bleeding studies (OR: 1.9–18.4 in case–control studies), two of two perforation studies (OR: 2.5–8.1) and five of seven diverticular disease studies (OR: 1.5–11.2). Coxibs had significantly less effect vs. non-selective-NSAIDs in three of four integrity studies, one endoscopic study (RR mucosal breaks: 0.3), and two randomized studies (RR lower gastrointestinal clinical events: 0.5; haematochezia: 0.4).


An increase in lower gastrointestinal injury and clinical events with non-selective-NSAIDs appears relatively consistent across the heterogeneous collection of trials. Coxibs are associated with lower rates of lower gastrointestinal injury than non-selective-NSAIDs. More high-quality trials are warranted to more precisely estimate the effects of non-selective-NSAIDs and coxibs on the lower gastrointestinal tract.