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Bleeding in the Upper/Lower GI

  • What is Bleeding in the Upper/Lower GI?

    Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding describes any bleeding that occurs in the GI tract, which extends from the mouth to the anus. GI bleeding is often a sign of a disorder in the digestive tract. The level of bleeding ranges from mild to massive and life-threatening.

    The cause of GI bleeding is often difficult to find, but the development of advanced imaging techniques now allows the location of the bleeding to be found.

    The bleeding can originate from any site in the GI tract, but it is divided into:

    • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding that can occur between the mouth and the duodenum (first part of the small intestine)
    • Lower gastrointestinal bleeding that can occur between the small intestine and the anus
  • Upper GI bleeding is usually caused by:

    • Peptic ulcers (open sores in the lining of the upper GI) which can wear away the artery and cause rapid bleeding
    • When an enlarged vein in the oesophagus bursts (caused by liver cirrhosis)
    • Tearing in the lining of the oesophagus (Mallory-Weiss syndrome) caused by alcohol abuse and gastroenteritis

    Lower GI bleeding is caused by:

    • Benign (non-cancerous) tumours
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Haemorrhoids
    • Inflammation (swelling)
    • Swelling of the colon including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
    • Polyps (benign growth in the lining of the colon or rectum)
  • The symptoms of GI bleeding depend on the location of the bleed and they include:

    • Dark stools
    • Feeling tired and short of breath
    • Finding blood in your stools
    • Having chest pain
    • Losing consciousness from reduced blood flow to the brain
    • Vomiting blood
    • Vomiting that looks like coffee grounds
  • Treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding includes:

    • Endoscopy, a procedure used to diagnose and treat GI bleeding by stopping the bleed through clipping of the bleeding vessels. It involves using special instruments with a camera and laser attachment.
    • Treating the cause of the bleeding if it can be identified:
      1. Haemorrhoids can be treated with medication or, in severe cases, with surgery
      2. Infections can be treated with appropriate antibiotics
      3. Proton pump inhibitor therapy can be used to reduce gastric acid production and promote healing of bleeding lesions
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    There are 17 SpecialistsView All