There is a lack of robust data on significant gastrointestinal bleeding in older people using aspirin. We calculated the incidence, risk factors and absolute risk using data from a large randomised, controlled trial.
Design Data were extracted from an aspirin versus placebo primary prevention trial conducted throughout 2010–2017 (‘ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE)’, n=19 114) in community-dwelling persons aged ≥70 years. Clinical characteristics were collected at baseline and annually. The endpoint was major GI bleeding that resulted in transfusion, hospitalisation, surgery or death, adjudicated independently by two physicians blinded to trial arm.
Results Over a median follow-up of 4.7 years (88 389 person years), there were 137 upper GI bleeds (89 in aspirin arm and 48 in placebo arm, HR 1.87, 95% CI 1.32 to 2.66, p<0.01) and 127 lower GI bleeds (73 in aspirin and 54 in placebo arm, HR 1.36, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.94, p=0.08) reflecting a 60% increase in bleeding overall. There were two fatal bleeds in the placebo arm. Multivariable analyses indicated age, smoking, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and obesity increased bleeding risk. The absolute 5-year risk of bleeding was 0.25% (95% CI 0.16% to 0.37%) for a 70 year old not on aspirin and up to 5.03% (2.56% to 8.73%) for an 80 year old taking aspirin with additional risk factors.
Conclusion Aspirin increases overall GI bleeding risk by 60%; however, the 5-year absolute risk of serious bleeding is modest in younger, well individuals. These data may assist patients and their clinicians to make informed decisions about prophylactic use of aspirin.