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From 1979 through 1991, four patients of 631 admissions (0.6 percent) for Crohn's disease in Erie, Pennsylvania, presented with life-threatening gastrointestinal hemorrhage. These and 34 similar cases from the medical literature were reviewed to provide a composite of those at risk and elucidate appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers.The study revealed a preponderance of young men (2:1 ratio) with an average age of 35 (range, 14-89) years, the majority of whom had known Crohn's disease (60 percent) for an average of 4.6 (range, 0-18) years. The site of bleeding resembled the general distribution for Crohn's disease, with small bowel disease predominating (66 percent involved the ileum). The five cases of exsanguination (13 percent of the total) were all men with known Crohn's disease (average, 58 years) involving the ileum alone or in part. Mesenteric arteriography was positive in 17 patients, providing precise preoperative localization resulting in no mortality in this group. Excluding those who presented with exsanguination, surgery was necessary to cease hemorrhage in 91 percent (30/33) of patients. Ileocolectomy was the most frequently performed procedure (53 percent). In follow-up, only one patient required further surgical resection for recurrent bleeding (3.5 percent), and two other patients (7 percent) required further therapy for nonhemorrhagic recurrence.Crohn's disease may be responsible for life-threatening gastrointestinal hemorrhage and even exsanguination. Many of the characteristics of these patients resemble the general Crohn's disease population. Surgical resection provides excellent palliation. A long-term benign course can be expected in this subgroup of Crohn's disease patients.