Gastrointestinal bleeding

Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Gastrointestinal bleeding (Disease)


Gastrointestinal bleeding is bleeding that occurs anywhere in the digestive tract, also called the gastrointestinal tract, which runs from the mouth to the anus. Blood may be present in vomit or stool. Depending on where the bleeding originates, the blood may be visible or occult, which means that it can be detected only by laboratory testing. The severity of gastrointestinal bleeding varies among individuals depending on the cause.

Causes and Risk factors

Common causes for gastrointestinal bleeding include peptic ulcer disease, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, angiodysplasia, and intestinal polyps. The bleeding can be slow and persistent causing anemia or fast and extensive resulting in a life threatening illness.

While gastrointestinal bleeding can be minor, it can also result from severe conditions that are characterized by prolonged bleeding. In these cases, serious complications such as shock can develop. Gastrointestinal bleeding can also occur from cancers in the digestive tract.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Gastrointestinal bleeding can range from microscopic bleeding, where the amount of blood is such that it can only be detected by laboratory testing, to massive bleeding where bright red blood is passed and hypovolemia and shock may develop. Blood that is digested may appear black rather than red, resulting in coffee ground vomit or stool.

The treatment for gastrointestinal bleeding depends on the underlying cause. Treatment for gastrointestinal bleeding may include intravenous fluids, blood transfusion, proton pump inhibitors, and upper GI and lower GI endoscopy to control bleeding. Surgery may be required in more severe cases that cannot be controlled with endoscopy. ...