BACKGROUND: Upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB) is a common problem associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Previous studies show that immediate endoscopies do not affect outcomes in patients; however, endoscopic interventions have evolved. The present retrospective review of endoscopies performed at a large teaching hospital assessed the timing of endoscopy with respect to the morbidity and mortality of UGIB.METHODS: Diagnostic billing codes were used to assess all inpatients of gastroenterologists at the University Hospital of the London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, from July 2004 to June 2006, using a centralized data recording system. Time to endoscopy (within 6 h, 6 h to 24 h and beyond 24 h) were compared for the outcomes of mortality, need for surgery and transfusion requirements.RESULTS: From July 2004 to June 2006, there were 502 upper endoscopies performed for the indication of suspected UGIB and 375 for overt acute nonvariceal UGIB. Approximately 10% of cases revealed variceal bleeding. When comparing endoscopy within 6 h with endoscopy at 6 h to 24 h, there were no significant differences in mortality, need for surgery (OR 3.6 and 2.8, respectively, compared with endoscopy beyond 24 h) or transfusion requirements. Even when assessing the group that received endoscopic hemostasis, time to endoscopy was not associated with better outcomes. Multivariate analysis did not demonstrate any advantages for early endoscopy (less than 6 h) compared with endoscopy within 24 h.CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with acute gastrointestinal bleeding can be effectively managed with endoscopy within 24 h.