Gastrointestinal bleeding
St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Definition

Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding refers to any bleeding that starts in the gastrointestinal tract.

Bleeding may come from any site along the GI tract, but is often divided into:

  • Upper GI bleeding: The upper GI tract includes the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), stomach, and first part of the small intestine.
  • Lower GI bleeding: The lower GI tract includes much of the small intestine, large intestine or bowels, rectum, and anus.

Alternative Names

Lower GI bleeding; GI bleeding; Upper GI bleeding

Considerations

The amount of GI bleeding may be so small that it can only be detected on a lab test such as the fecal occult blood test. Other signs of GI bleeding include:
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Larger amounts of blood passed from the rectum
  • Small amounts of blood in the toilet bowl, on toilet paper, or in streaks on stool (feces)
  • Vomiting blood

Massive bleeding from the GI tract can be dangerous. However, even very small amounts of bleeding that occur over a long period of time can lead to problems such as anemia or low blood counts.

Once a bleeding site is found, many therapies are available to stop the bleeding or treat the cause.

Causes

GI bleeding may be due to conditions that are not serious, including:

However, GI bleeding may also be a sign of more serious diseases and conditions, such as the following cancers of the GI tract:

Other possible causes of GI bleeding include:

Home Care

There are home stool tests for microscopic blood that may be recommended for people with anemia or for colon cancer screening.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your doctor if:

  • You have black, tarry stools (this may be a sign of GI bleeding)
  • You have blood in your stool
  • You vomit blood or you vomit material that looks like coffee grounds

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

GI bleeding is diagnosed by a doctor -- you may or may not be aware of its presence.

GI bleeding can be an emergency condition requiring immediate medical attention. Treatment may involve:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Fluids and medicines through a vein
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) - a thin tube with a camera on the end is passed through your mouth into your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
  • A tube is placed through your mouth into the stomach to drain the stomach contents (gastric lavage)

Once your condition is stable, you will have a physical examination, including a detailed abdominal examination.

You will also be asked questions about your symptoms, including:

  • When did you first notice symptoms?
  • Did you have black, tarry stools or red blood in the stools?
  • Have you vomited blood?
  • Did you vomit material that looks like coffee grounds?
  • Do you have a history of peptic or duodenal ulcers?
  • Have you ever had symptoms like this before?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tests that may be done to find the source of the bleeding include:

References

Bjorkman D. GI hemorrhage and occult GI bleeding. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 137.

Savides TJ, Jensen DM. Gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 19.


Review Date: 1/31/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 


Back  |  Top
About Us
Contact Us
History
Mission
Locations & Directions
Quality Reports
Annual Reports
Honors & Awards
Community Health Needs
Assessment

Newsroom
Services
Brain & Spine
Cancer
Heart
Maternity
Orthopedics
Pulmonary
Sleep Medicine
Urgent Care
Women's Services
All Services
Patients & Visitors
Locations & Directions
Find a Physician
Tour St. Luke's
Patient & Visitor Information
Contact Us
Payment Options
Financial Assistance
Send a Card
Mammogram Appointments
Health Tools
My Personal Health
mystlukes
Spirit of Women
Health Information & Tools
Clinical Trials
Health Risk Assessments
Employer Programs -
Passport to Wellness

Classes & Events
Classes & Events
Spirit of Women
Donate & Volunteer
Giving Opportunities
Volunteer
Physicians & Employees
For Physicians
Remote Access
Medical Residency Information
Pharmacy Residency Information
Physician CPOE Training
Careers
Careers
St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile