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Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding

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Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding can be a symptom of many different GI conditions. It can appear either within stool, within vomit or on its own.

WakeMed’s dedicated gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons work with patients to determine where in the digestive tract the blood is originating from—whether the stomach, large intestine or small intestine—and then effectively treat it.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

GI bleeding can be a worrisome symptom, but there are many common causes of it. Sometimes it will make stool look black and tarry, and sometimes it makes the stool red. Blood that is vomited is usually bright red. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

GI bleeding can result from:

How Do You Diagnose Gastrointestinal Bleeding?

If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding, you should see a gastroenterologist. WakeMed’s gastroenterologists are experts at pinpointing the cause of GI bleeding.

Our physicians start by taking a detailed patient history and a review of symptoms. Sometimes, this is enough to diagnose where the bleeding is coming from.

In some cases, we may also use these tests:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound, in which the gastroenterologist inserts a special endoscope (a thin flexible lighted tube with a camera on the tip) into the patient’s mouth to inspect the esophagus, stomach and duodenum 
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, which is an X-ray series of the upper digestive tract
  • Colonoscopy (sometimes referred to as a lower endoscopy) that looks at the inner lining of the colon to check for inflammation, polyps or cancer.
  • Rectal exam 

How Do You Treat Gastrointestinal Bleeding?

Once the source of the bleeding is identified, treatment can begin. Treatment for GI bleeding depends on the cause, and whether it’s intestinal bleeding or stomach bleeding.

For conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis,  stomach ulcers and colon cancer, treatment of the underlying disease will reduce the bleeding. To treat abnormal blood vessels, our doctors may use endoscopic injections, endoscopic thermal probes or ablation to stop the bleeding.

If you or someone you care for is experiencing worrisome symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our adult gastroenterologists, pediatric gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeons.