Sooner may not be better: Study shows no benefit of urgent colonoscopy for lower GI bleeding


Clinical Question: In patients hospitalized for a lower gastrointestinal bleeding (LGIB), does an urgent colonoscopy (less than 24 hours after admission) result in any clinical benefits, compared with waiting for an elective colonoscopy?

Background: LGIB is a common cause of morbidity and mortality, often requiring hospitalization. While colonoscopy is necessary for appropriate work-up and treatment, it remains unclear if time to colonoscopy (urgent vs. elective) confers any clinical benefit in hospitalized patients.

Study Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Twelve studies meeting inclusion criteria.

Synopsis: Computerized bibliography databases were searched for appropriate studies, and 12 met inclusion criteria, resulting in a total sample size of 10,172 patients in the urgent colonoscopy arm and 14,224 patients in the elective colonoscopy.

Outcome measures included bleeding source identified on colonoscopy, therapeutic endoscopic interventions performed, patients requiring blood transfusions, rebleeding, adverse events, and mortality.

Urgent colonoscopy was associated with increased use of endoscopic therapeutic intervention (relative risk, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.08-2.67). There were no significant differences in bleeding source localization (RR, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.92-1.25), adverse event rates (RR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.65-1.71), rebleeding rates (RR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.74-1.78), transfusion requirement (RR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.73-1.41), or mortality (RR, 1.17; 95% CI, 0.45-3.02) between urgent and elective colonoscopy.

Limitations of the study comprise of inclusion of small number of studies, underpowered statistical analysis, and possible variation in quality assessment of articles evaluated.

Bottom Line: Urgent colonoscopy is safe and usually well tolerated in hospitalized patients with LGIB, but, compared with elective colonoscopy, there is no clear evidence it alters important clinical outcomes.

Reference: Kouanda AM, Somsouk M, Sewell JL, Day LW. Urgent colonoscopy in patients with lower GI bleeding: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Gastrointest Endosc. Published online Feb 4, 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.gie.2017.01.035.

Dr. Martin is clinical professor in the division of hospital medicine, department of medicine, University of California, San Diego.

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