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Mallory-Weiss tear

Definition

A Mallory-Weiss tear occurs in the mucous membrane of the esophagus, where it connects to the stomach. The tear may bleed.

Alternative Names

Mucosal lacerations - gastroesophageal junction

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Mallory-Weiss tears do not happen very often. They are usually caused by forceful or long-term vomiting or coughing. They may also be caused by epileptic convulsions.

The tear may be followed by vomiting bright red blood or by passing blood in the stool. Any condition that leads to violent and lengthy bouts of coughing or vomiting can cause these tears.

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Treatment

The tear usually heals in about 10 days without treatment. Surgery is rarely required. Drugs that suppress stomach acid (proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers) may be given, but it is not clear if they are helpful.

If blood loss has been great, blood transfusions may be necessary. Excessive bleeding may need to be treated by using an endoscope (see EGD). In most cases, bleeding stops without treatment within a few hours.

Expectations (prognosis)

Repeated bleeding is uncommon unless there is also a problem with blood clotting. The outcome is expected to be good.

Complications

Hemorrhage (loss of blood)

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you begin vomiting blood or if you pass bloody stools.

Prevention

Treatments to relieve vomiting and coughing may reduce risk. Avoid excessive alcohol use.

References

Bjorkman DJ. Gastrointestinal hemorrhage and occult gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 137.

Review Date: 12/19/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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