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Abstract Background Following non-variceal upper gastrointestinal bleeding (NVUGIB), 10–15 per cent of patients experience further bleeding. Although surgery has been the traditional salvage therapy, there is renewed interest in transcatheter arterial embolization (TAE). This study examined the use, clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients receiving salvage surgery or TAE after failed endoscopic haemostasis for NVUGIB. Methods A UK national audit of upper gastrointestinal bleeding was undertaken in May and June 2007. A logistic regression model was used to identify clinical predictors of endoscopic failure. Results Data were analysed from 4478 patients involving 212 UK centres. Some 533 (11·9 per cent) experienced further bleeding, of whom 163 (30·6 per cent) proceeded to salvage therapy with surgery (97), TAE (60) or both (6). Among surgical patients (mean age 71 years), 66·0 per cent (68 of 103) had a Rockall score of at least 3 and emergency surgery was carried out between midnight and 08.00 hours in 21 per cent, with a consultant surgeon present in 89 per cent of operations. Some 9 per cent of patients had further bleeding after TAE, resulting in later surgery. The mortality rate was 29 per cent after surgery, 10 per cent after TAE and 23·2 per cent among those with further bleeding after the index endoscopy that was managed by endoscopy alone. The strongest predictors of endoscopic failure were coagulopathy (odds ratio 3·27, 95 per cent confidence interval 2·37 to 4·53) and a haemoglobin level of 10 g/dl or less (odds ratio 2·22, 1·71 to 2·87, for haemoglobin 8–10 g/dl). Conclusion Salvage surgery and embolization are required in fewer than 4 per cent of patients with NVUGIB. The high postoperative mortality rate, reflecting age, co-morbidity and severity of bleeding, warrants a prospective study to establish the effectiveness and safety of TAE as an alternative to surgery in the management of bleeding after failure of endoscopic therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Surgery


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date





1672 - 1680