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Alternative Names Return to topLower GI bleeding; GI bleeding; Upper GI bleeding
Definition Return to top
Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding refers to any bleeding that starts in the gastrointestinal tract, which extends from the mouth to the anus.
The amount of bleeding can range from nearly undetectable to acute, massive, and life threatening.
Bleeding may come from any site along the GI tract, but is often divided into:
Considerations Return to top
GI bleeding can range from microscopic bleeding (the amount of blood is so small that it can only be detected by laboratory testing) to massive bleeding (pure blood is passed).
It is important to be aware of GI bleeding, because it may point to many significant diseases and conditions. Prolonged microscopic bleeding can lead to loss of iron, causing anemia. Acute, massive bleeding can lead to hypovolemia, shock, and even death.
GI bleeding can occur at any age from birth on. The degree and suspected location of the bleeding determines what tests should be performed to find the cause. Once a bleeding site is identified, many therapies are available to stop the bleeding.
Causes Return to top
Some of the possible causes of GI bleeding include:
Home Care Return to top
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 Return to top
Call for an appointment with your doctor if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
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:
Once the condition is stable, a physical examination, including a detailed abdominal examination, will be performed.
You will also be asked questions about your symptoms, including:
Tests that may be done include:
References Return to top
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.Update Date: 1/28/2009 Updated 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.