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To differentiate, among patients presented at the emergency department with acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding, those who need early urgent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy from those who do not.Seventeen variables for each patient presenting with upper gastrointestinal bleeding were prospectively recorded and considered in a multivariate analysis. We used the presence of active bleeding during early urgent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy within 12 h from admission as the end point. The derived score was validated with data from the next consecutive patients presenting with upper gastrointestinal bleeding.Among 190 consecutive patients (mean age 63.7 ± 16 years; 64.7% men), active bleeding was observed in 51 patients (26.8%). Four variables were identified as independent predictors (P< 0.05) of active bleeding in early urgent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and were used for the derivation of the following integer-based scoring system: number of points = 6 (fresh blood in nasogastric tube) + 4 (haemodynamic instability) + 4 (haemoglobin < 8 g/dl) + 3 (white blood cell count > 12 000/μl). The validation study consisted of 110 patients (71 men; mean age 66.1 ± 14 years; 28 patients [25.5%] with active bleeding). In this study, a cut off of < 7 points indicated absence of active bleeding and ≥ 11 points indicated presence of active bleeding; this gave a sensitivity of 96%, specificity of 98%, positive predictive value of 96% and negative predictive value of 98%.Simple clinical and laboratory variables available at presentation can be used to differentiate patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding who do not need an early urgent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy from those who do.