Gastrointestinal Bleeding | Diagnosing GI Bleed | Portland
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Diagnosis / Gastrointestinal Bleeding

A Gastrointestinal (GI) bleed refers to bleeding in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract includes your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. GI bleeding is a symptom of any number of conditions and can occur in your upper or lower GI Tract.

Causes of Upper GI Bleeding

  • Peptic ulcers
  • Gastritis – bleeding in the stomach
  • Esophageal varices
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation of the GI lining

Causes of Lower GI Bleeding

  • Diverticulitis – diverticular disease
  • Gastrointestinal cancers
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Angiodysplasia
  • Polyps
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of GI bleeding depend on the acuteness and the source of blood loss. The level of bleeding can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.

Mild, chronic GI blood loss may not show any active bleeding, but can still result in an iron deficiency overtime. Many of these patients never notice any blood loss as it occurs in small amounts with the bowel movement. Blood in the stool often can be detected by hemoccult testing (testing for blood in your stool) during a routine office examination.

In more severe cases of chronic or acute bleeding, symptoms may include signs of anemia, such as weakness, pallor, dizziness, shortness of breath or angina. More obvious bleeding may present with bloody vomit (hematemesis, which could either be red or dark and coffee-like in appearance).

Blood in the stool could either be bright red, burgundy and clotted, or black or tarry in appearance, depending on the location of the bleeding source. A black, tarry stool (melena) often indicates an upper GI source of bleeding although it could originate from the small intestine or right colon. Hematochezia, or bright red blood can be mixed in with the stool or after the bowel movement and usually signifies a bleeding source close to the rectal opening.

How is it Diagnosed?

  • Upper GI endoscopy – typically the first step if upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding is suspected.
  • Colonoscopy – if lower gastrointestinal tract bleeding is suspected
  • Nuclear bleeding scan
  • Angiography
  • Barium GI studies

Once the cause for the blood loss is determined, appropriate treatment and management recommendations can be made.

IVC’s Treatments for Gastrointestinal Bleeding

At IVC, we offer a minimally invasive treatment GI bleeding called catheter embolization. Catheter embolization places medications or synthetic materials called embolic agents through a catheter into a blood vessel to block blood flow to an area of the body. Embolization is a highly effective way to control bleeding and is much less invasive than open surgery.

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