There are many causes of acute bleeding but acute GI bleedingcan be dramatic and require emergent care.
Definition of Acute GI Bleeding
By definition, acute means sudden or urgent. Some patients may have a history of slow, ongoing bleeding from the GI tract. However, for those needing intervention this is usually a sudden onset of significant bleeding requiring transfusion. The GI (gastrointestinal) tract starts at the mouth and stomach and ends at the rectum. It also includes the small and large intestines.
Anatomy of Acute GI Bleeding
Bleeding can develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding from the stomach and small bowel is often characterized as “melanotic” stool or dark, tarlike stools. On the other hand, bleeding from the colon is often right red and streak the stool. However, this is not a universal rule.
Causes of Acute GI Bleeding
There are numerous causes of acute GI bleeding. Patients may have ulcers, tumors, or a congenital condition such as an arteriovenous malformation. Patients who are alcoholics can develop dilated vessels in the esophagus (varices) which can also bleed. Patients with diverticulosis are also at risk for bleeding.
Symptoms of Acute GI Bleeding
As mentioned briefly above, people may notice a change in their stool color. It may or may not be red depending on the location of the bleeding. Similar to other causes of bleeding, the patient will have a high heart rate and possibly a low blood pressure depending on the amount of blood loss. The patient may also look pale or feel tired.
Diagnosis of Acute GI Bleeding
Bright red blood per rectum is diagnostic. For those with a slower bleed, the stool will be tested for blood. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or a colonoscopy may also be diagnostic as well as therapeutic. A bleeding scan can show the location of the bleeding. Finally, an angiogram can show the location and well as treat the bleeding site.
Prevention of Acute GI Bleeding
Patients should minimize alcohol intake and see their physician regularly. Patients should have routine colonoscopies as well to find and remove any small tumors that can cause bleeding. Patients should avoid constipation and eat a healthy diet.
Am I At Risk?
Patients who are alcoholics have diverticulosis, a history of gastrointestinal tumors or ulcers are at risk of acute GI bleeding.
Treatment of Acute GI Bleeding
Once the bleeding has been diagnosed, the cause must be found and treated. Physicians may utilize endoscopy, angiography, open surgery, or a combination of the above to determine the etiology and treat the area of bleeding.
To learn more about treatment procedures for this condition please visit the following:
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