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Angiodysplasia of the lower gastrointestinal tract: an entity readily diagnosed by colonoscopy and primarily managed nonoperatively.

BACKGROUND: The characteristics of patients who develop clinically significant angiodysplasia of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract are unknown, and methods of treatment are evolving.

PURPOSE: This study was undertaken to identify patient characteristics, methods of diagnosis, and current management of patients who require operation and outcome.

METHODS: Patients with the diagnosis of angiodysplasia of the lower GI tract at St. Louis University affiliated hospitals over the past five years were reviewed.

RESULTS: Thirty-two consecutive patients were identified. The mean age was 69.8 (range, 29-86) years; 62.5 percent were males. Patient characteristics included: age greater than 65 years, 22 of 32 patients (69 percent); documented coagulopathy, 9 of 32 patients (28 percent); and cardiac valvular disease, 8 of 32 patients (25 percent). Diagnosis was established by colonoscopy in 27 of 32 patients (84 percent), enteroscopy in 3 of 32 patients (9 percent), and angiography in 2 of 32 patients (6 percent). Seventy-eight percent of the angiodysplasias were located in the right colon. Patients were treated by endoscopic coagulation in 16 of 32 patients (50 percent), surgical resection in 9 of 32 (12.5 percent), or observation in 3 of 32 patients (9 percent). Four of 32 patients (12.5 percent) developed recurrent bleeding. Four of 32 patients (12.5 percent) died of various causes.

FOLLOW-UP: Follow-up was possible in 25 of 28 surviving patients, and the follow-up period ranged from 3 to 42 months, during which rebleeding occurred in 5 patients who had been previously treated by endoscopic coagulation and in 1 patient who had been treated by transfusion alone. Two patients died of unrelated causes and one from a recurrent lower GI bleed.

CONCLUSION: Angiodysplasia is primarily a disease of elderly patients. These patients are frequently anticoagulated and often have co-existing cardiac valvular disease. Endoscopy usually establishes the diagnosis, and endoscopic coagulation is an effective and safe method of treatment. Most patients can be managed without operation.

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