Complications of Peptic Ulcer

The complications of peptic ulcer disease can appear quite suddenly and require immediate medical attention.
They include:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding – is among the most common complications. It ranges from very light to life-threatening, depending on how large was the vessel that was eroded by the ulcer.
  • Perforation – can often lead to catastrophic consequences. When the wall of the stomach is perforated by the ulcer, the content of the stomach spills out, causing a very acute peritonitis (due to the fact that content of the stomach is very aggressive). The patient usually feels a stabbing pain (as if struck by a dagger) when the wall of stomach is perforated.
  • Penetration – is when the ulcer perforates the wall of the stomach into an adjacent organ such as pancreas or liver.
  • Gastric outlet obstruction – due to the fact that healing ulcers create lesions and scar tissue, this tissue can lead to the narrowing of the pyloric canal. A common symptom of this condition is vomiting out food that has a rotten smell and which was eaten one or two days ago.
  • Cancer – all ulcers with a diameter of more than 2 cm are regarded as a precancerous condition. Ulcers located on the large curvature of the stomach have an extremely high rate of transforming into cancer, thus, they should be removed surgically. Additionally, Helicobacter pylori plays a large role as the etiological factor for cancer, increasing the chances of malignization of a peptic ulcer by 3 to 6 times.


Prognosis for peptic ulcer disease is favorable with proper treatment, which helps prevent possible complications. Peptic ulcers of large diameter (2cm+) and ulcers located on the large curvature of the stomach have to be closely monitored or removed surgically in order to prevent the development of cancer.