Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Table of Contents

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
  • 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.


Common Causes

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

  • Anal fissure
  • Hemorrhoids

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

  • Cancer of the colon
  • Cancer of the small intestine
  • Cancer of the stomach
  • Intestinal polyps (a pre-cancerous condition)

Other possible causes of GI bleeding include:

  • Abnormal blood vessels in the lining of the intestines (also called angiodysplasias)
  • Bleeding diverticulum, or diverticulosis
  • Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Esophageal varices
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastric (stomach) ulcer
  • Intussusception (bowel telescoped on itself)
  • Mallory-Weiss tear
  • Meckel's diverticulum
  • Radiation injury to the bowel


Review Date: 01/31/2011
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.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)