Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a very common condition that occurs when there is bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. The bleeding may occur anywhere in the GI tract between mouth and anus. The most common site of bleeding in the upper part of the intestinal tract includes the esophagus, stomach, and the first portion of the small intestine called duodenum. The most common site of the internal bleeding in the lower intestinal tract is the colon. Bleeding, on the other hand, seldom origin from the small intestinal tract.

An acute GI bleeding occurs when there is a sudden and significant amount of bleeding from the intestinal tract. This is often manifested by vomiting of fresh blood or coffee ground. There can be maroonish or fresh blood passing from the rectum. An internal bleeding is often associated with a drop in blood pressure due to the significant amount of blood loss. As a result, individuals affected often complain of dizziness and weakness and may appear pale. This can be a life-threatening condition and usually require an admission to a hospital, usually in an intensive care unit, intravenous hydration, transfusion, and measures to stop the source of bleeding.

Chronic GI bleeding, on the other hand, is often insidious and may not be readily apparent. Individuals affected usually complain of fatigue, shortness of breath, and lack of energy. They may sometimes also complain of anorexia and weight loss.

The common causes of acute upper GI bleeding include bleeding from esophageal varices, due to the cirrhosis of liver, tear in the lower esophagus called Mallory-Weiss tear, ulcer of the stomach or duodenum, angiodysplasia (vascular malformation) of the colon, and diverticulosis .

The causes of chronic GI bleeding include esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) due to acid reflux, esophageal cancer, gastritis, stomach cancer, colon polyp, colon cancer, and even hemorrhoids.

In patients with suspected or documented GI bleeding, endoscopic evaluation following stablization of patients is usually indicated. Depending on the suspected site of bleeding, an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy, or both may be performed to localize the site of bleeding, to implement measures to stop the bleeding, and possibly to perform a biopsy for tissue diagnosis in selected cases.

GI bleeding is a very common condition that can occur anywhere in the intestinal tract. It can be due to a life-threatening condition and may require an acute intervention in a hospital setting. A documented case of GI bleeding usually requires an endoscopic assessment both to diagnose and to treat the underlying cause of bleeding.