Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of combined hormonal therapy in patients with recurring occult gastrointestinal bleeding of obscure origin. Methods: This was a prospective longitudinal observational study. The setting was an outpatient private practice affiliated with a large university-based hospital. A total of 43 patients, comprising 14 men and 29 women with a mean age of 74 yr (range 48- 86 yr), were included. They had a history of recurrent gastrointestinal bleeding of unknown origin for a period of > 1 yr and had required multiple hospitalizations and transfusions. Patients were initially treated with one Enovid 5-mg tablet containing 5 mg norethynodrel and 75 μg of mestranol. Enovid became commercially unavailable and treatment was changed to OrthoNovum 1/50, containing 1 mg norethindrone and 0.05 milligrams of mestranol, given one tablet b.i.d. Patients were treated and followed for a mean time of 535 days (range 25-1551 days). All patients acted as their own controls and were followed for compliant behavior with periodic hematocrit, serial stool hemoccults, medication counts, and clinical histories regarding transfusion requirements or hospitalization for bleeding or anemia. Results: Of 43 patients who initially entered the study, 38 were treated with combination hormonal therapy. The remaining five patients were treated with estrogen alone. In 25 patients, initial enteroscopy revealed AVMs in the stomach or proximal small bowel and these were cauterized. In the remaining 18 patients no source of bleeding was found. None of the 38 patients who were treated with combination hormonal therapy rebled as long as they continued their prescribed dosage. All five of the patients treated with estrogen alone had rebleeding episodes. There was no statistical difference with respect to AVM cauterization in the rebleeding rate between those patients who underwent cauterization of their AVMs and those who did not. Side effects of combination hormonal therapy occurred in 11 patients and all were considered to be mild. Seven of these 11 patients (64%) elected to continue treatment. Conclusion: In this long-term observational study, combination hormonal therapy was shown to stop rebleeding in patients with occult gastrointestinal bleeding of obscure origin.
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