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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug-related gastrointestinal toxicity: definitions and epidemiology

  • Denis McCarthy
    Correspondence
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Denis McCarthy, MD, PhD, USAF/VA Medical Center–111F, 2100 Ridgecrest Drive SE, Building 41, Room 5B-126, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131–5271
    Affiliations
    Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Division of Gastroenterology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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      Abstract

      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-associated gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity is a broad topic encompassing symptoms as well as severe GI complications. GI bleeding and perforation are the 2 overlapping components that account for the majority of deaths and disability associated with these drugs. Abnormal gastric endoscopic profiles as well as symptoms such as heartburn, pain, and dyspepsia are common in NSAID users, but no correlation has been found between these factors and the occurrence of the more severe complications; therefore, neither symptoms nor endoscopic observations can necessarily be considered reliable predictors of future outcomes. Confounding factors can increase the risk of complications, and specific NSAIDs vary in the magnitude and type of risk attending their use. Recent studies have focused on the contribution of nonprescription NSAIDs to total complications, and combined with evidence suggesting that the risk is greatest during the first month of NSAID use, it is apparent that NSAID toxicity is an acute as well as a chronic problem.
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