Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Effect of paracetamol on gastric mucosa.

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 17 June 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:1586
  1. R J Ivey,
  2. G R Silvoso,
  3. W J Krause


    The effect of paracetamol on the gastric mucosa was examined in seven healthy volunteers. The dose used (2 g instilled in 100 ml isotonic saline) was equivalent to about six tablets taken with water. Biopsy specimens were taken before and 10 and 60 minutes after instillation. The mean incidence of damaged surface cells in the control period was 1.7%. Ten minutes after instillation 3.5% of the surface cells were damaged. This increase was not significant. Light microscopy showed focal cell disruption and infiltration of red blood cells. Scanning electronmicroscopy showed minimal loss of normal cell apices. No erosions were seen on microscopy. Biopsy specimens taken 60 minutes after paracetamol showed similar changes. These findings differ appreciably from the extensive cell damage and microscopic erosions caused by therapeutic doses of 600 mg (two tablets) of aspirin. We conclude that large "analgesic" doses of paracetamol cause minimal ultrastructural changes in normal human gastric mucosa. The continued use of paracetamol in place of aspirin appears to be justified when there is a possibility of gastric mucosal injury.