Upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the geriatric (age > 65 years) population and presents a unique management challenge in the context of multiple medical comorbidities, polypharmacy, and increased risk of adverse outcomes and is confounded by an increased prevalence of obscure GI bleeds. A review of relevant guidelines, literature, and personal observations will enhance management strategies in the elderly.
Non-variceal bleeding represents a significant proportion of upper GI bleeding (UGIB) in geriatric patients. Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) remains the most common cause in geriatric patients hospitalized for UGIB, but its incidence is decreasing. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is the gold standard for treating UGIB in geriatrics with a therapeutic yield of approximately 75%. Scoring systems such as Glasgow-Blatchford (GBS) and AIMS-65 may be useful for risk stratification but are not validated in trials. Obscure bleeds account for up to 30% of hospitalizations and must be considered during triage and management. Video capsule endoscopy (VCE) technology is efficacious for detecting obscure jejunal bleeding after failed EGD and may enhance the yield of balloon-assisted enteroscopy (BAE). The most significant factor for the increased morbidity and mortality in the geriatric population is the presence of multiple medical comorbidities and polypharmacy. An EGD should be done within 24 h of hospital presentation. If non-diagnostic, VCE may be a viable option for diagnosing an obscure small-bowel bleed, representing up to 30% of GI bleeds in this population.