Intended for healthcare professionals


Incidence of and mortality from acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in the United Kingdom

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 22 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:222
  1. T A Rockall, research fellowa,
  2. R F A Logan, senior lecturer in clinical epidemiologyb,
  3. H B Devlin, director of surgical epidemiology and audit unita,
  4. T C Northfield, professor of gastroenterologyc
  1. a Royal College of Surgeons of England, London WC2A 3PN,
  2. Department of Public Health Medicine, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH,
  3. Department of Biochemical Medicine, St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
  1. Members of the steering committee are listed at the end of the article.Correspondence to: Mr Rockall.
  • Accepted 24 May 1995


Objective: To describe the current epidemiology of acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage.

Design: Population based, unselected, multicentre, prospective survey.

Setting: 74 hospitals receiving emergency admissions in four health regions in the United Kingdom.

Subjects: 4185 cases of acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in which patients were aged over 16 years identified over four months.

Outcome measures: Incidence and mortality.

Results: The overall incidence of acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in the United Kingdom is 103/100000 adults per year. The incidence rises from 23 in those aged under 30 to 485 in those aged over 75. At all ages incidence in men was more than double that in women except in elderly patients. 14% of the haemorrhages occurred in inpatients already in hospital for some other reason. In 27% of cases (37% female, 19% male) patients were aged over 80. Overall mortality was 14% (11% in emergency admissions and 33% in haemorrhage in inpatients). In the emergency admissions, 65% of deaths in those aged under 80 were associated with malignancy or organ failure at presentation. Mortality for patients under 60 in the absence of malignancy or organ failure at presentation was 0.8%.

Conclusions: The incidence of acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage is twice that previously reported in England and similar to that reported in Scotland. The incidence increases appreciably with age. Although the proportion of elderly patients continues to rise and mortality increases steeply with age, age standardised mortality is lower than in earlier studies. Deaths occurred almost exclusively in very old patients or those with severe comorbidity.


  • Funding Lederle Pharmaceuticals UK, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians of London, British Society of Gastroenterology, and Department of Health.

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 24 May 1995
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