OBJECTIVES: The circadian variation in portal blood pressure and in the diurnal incidence of variceal bleeding is well known, but the seasonal variation in variceal bleeding is still controversial. This report analyzes the seasonal variations in mortality and hospitalizations due to variceal bleeding in the French population. METHODS: All the deaths due to variceal bleeding that occurred from 1987 to 1996 (N = 13,514) and all adults discharged from French public hospitals for variceal bleeding from 1995 to 1997 (N = 17,026) were examined retrospectively. Cumulated monthly averages were expressed as the percentage above or below the average monthly value during the entire study period. RESULTS: Deaths due to variceal bleeding in France occurred with a clear annual periodicity and peaked in winter (December/January), both in the overall population and in subgroups defined by age and sex, except for women. The distribution of cumulative monthly deaths differed by 24%, with a peak (14% above average) in December and a trough (10% below average) in July (Roger's test: p < 0.001). Hospitalizations for variceal bleeding in French public hospitals followed a similar seasonal pattern (p < 0.001) with a winter-spring predominance (4% to 7% from December through April), except in patients aged 15-49 yr. There was a short sharp peak of mortality in early winter in French public hospitals. The seasonality of hospitalization and death increased markedly with age. CONCLUSIONS: A better understanding of these age- and sex-specific seasonal patterns would allow to improve pharmacological protection measures, disease management, and educational strategies.
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