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Stress ulcer prophylaxis in the intensive care unit

Krag, Mette; Perner, Anders; Møller, Morten H.

Current Opinion in Critical Care: April 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 186–190
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000290
GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM: Edited by Craig Coopersmith

Purpose of review Stress ulcer prophylaxis (SUP) is considered standard of care in the majority of critically ill patients in the ICU. In this review, we will present the current evidence for the use of SUP in ICU patients, including data on the prevalence of gastrointestinal bleeding and the balance between benefits and harms of SUP.

Recent findings The prevalence of overt gastrointestinal bleeding in critically ill patients is in the area of 5%. Consistent risk factors for gastrointestinal bleeding have been identified, but indications for SUP vary considerably. SUP is used in three out of four critically ill patients, most frequently in the form of proton pump inhibitors. A recent systematic review of SUP vs. placebo or no prophylaxis in critically ill patients highlights the lack of evidence supporting the use of SUP. Importantly, data suggest potential harm, including increased risk of nosocomial infections and cardiovascular events.

Summary The prevalence of gastrointestinal bleeding in critically ill patients in the ICU is low, the prognostic importance is ambiguous, and SUP is widely used. The balance between benefits and harms of SUP is unknown, and clinical equipoise exists. High-quality randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews assessing benefits and harms of SUP in ICU patients are highly warranted.

Department of Intensive Care, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark

Correspondence to Morten H. Møller, MD, PhD, Department of Intensive Care 4131, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Blegdamsvej 9, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. Tel: +45 3545 8685; fax: +45 3545 2736; e-mail:;

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