GI bleeding - series

Normal anatomy

Normal anatomy

The gastrointestinal tract starts at the mouth, which leads to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and finally, the rectum and anus. The GI tract is a long, hollow, muscular tube through which food passes, nutrients are absorbed, and wastes are eliminated.

Indication

Indication

Bleeding from the GI tract is a common medical problem. Patients may vomit bright red or brownish "coffee ground" material," or they may pass either black tarry stools or dark red blood or bright red blood in their stool.

Ulcers of the stomach and duodenum are common causes of bleeding from the upper GI tract. Bleeding can also occur in the lower GI tract (colon). Diverticular bleeding is a common cause of lower GI bleeding.

Procedure, part 1

Procedure, part 1

A key step in the treatment of GI bleeding is to locate the source of the bleeding. Patients who have lost significant amounts of blood are transfused with blood.

Often an endoscopy is the first step used to locate the source of the bleeding. During an endoscopy, the patient is usually sedated but awake.

Procedure, part 2

Procedure, part 2

In many cases, GI bleeding will stop on its own, or with medical treatment. In other cases, treatment can be provided with the endoscope, most often in the form of cautery (electrocoagulation) of the site of bleeding.

Procedure, part 3

Procedure, part 3

If the bleeding cannot be stopped using the endoscope, surgery may be required. The bleeding segment of intestine or stomach is removed. However, most cases of GI bleeding are managed successfully with endoscopy and medication.

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 05/14/2012
  • Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital.

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This page was last updated: May 31, 2013

         
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