DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic Staff
Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a symptom of a disorder in your digestive tract. The blood often appears in stool or vomit but isn't always visible, though it may cause the stool to look black or tarry. The level of bleeding can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.
Bleeding in the stomach or colon can usually be easily identified, but finding the cause of bleeding that occurs in the small intestine can be difficult. But sophisticated imaging technology can usually locate the problem, and minimally invasive procedures often can fix it.
GI bleeding can result from a number of digestive disorders, including:
GI bleeding can be visible in the form of vomiting blood, having bright red bloody stools or having black tarry stools (melena). Even a small amount of GI bleeding that isn't visible can cause a shortage of red blood cells in your blood (anemia) over time.
Pinpointing the source of GI bleeding can be especially difficult if it starts in the small intestine. When the source can't be identified, the term "obscure GI bleeding" is used.
Oct. 21, 2015
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed July 24, 2015.
- Strate L. Etiology of lower gastrointestinal bleeding in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 24, 2015.
- Rockey DC. Major causes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 24, 2015.
- Marx JA, et al., eds. Gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 24, 2015.
- Cook AJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 30, 2015.
- Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Gastrointestinal disorders. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2015. 54th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed July 24, 2015.
- Barlow JM. CT enterography: Technical and interpretive pitfalls. Abdominal Imaging. 2015;40:1081.
- Fletcher JG, et al. New concepts in intestinal imaging for inflammatory bowel diseases. Gastroenterology. 2011;140:1795.
- Bruining DH, et al. Technology insight: New techniques for imaging the gut in patients with IBD. Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2008;5:154.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Aug. 9, 2015.