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Gastrointestinal Bleeding

How is Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding Diagnosed?

In patients who are suspected of having gastrointestinal bleeding, doctors will start by asking about their symptoms and performing a physical exam and/or blood tests. These initial steps may be enough to identify the cause of GI bleeding. However, if the source still cannot be found, doctors can use imaging technology to find it. Results from 1 procedure determine the next course of action until the cause is found.

Doctors may use the following tests to diagnose gastrointestinal bleeding:

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) – Scope used to look at the patient’s esophagus, stomach and upper region of the small intestine. A tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken for further analysis
  • Colonoscopy – Can help identify acute lower GI bleeding
  • Capsule Endoscopy – The patient swallows a pill containing a tiny video camera which transmits images of their small intestine to an external recording device
  • Balloon-Assisted Enteroscopy – Scope used to look at areas within the small intestine that EGDs and colonoscopies are unable to reach
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound – Device that allows doctors to see tissues inside the digestive tract
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – A scope combined with an X-ray procedure that can reveal the ducts of the gallbladder, liver and pancreas
  • Multiphase CT Enterography (MCTE) – Noninvasive radiologic test that can image the thickness of the bowel wall, small intestine and surrounding tissue
  • Angiography – Contrast dye is injected into an artery, and X-rays are taken to find bleeding vessels or other abnormalities

If gastrointestinal bleeding is severe, and these tests are unable to identify the source, the patient may require surgery so that doctors can view the entire small intestine.

How Can Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding be Treated?

Depending on the course and location of a patient’s gastrointestinal bleeding, a number of treatment options may be available including:

  • Endoscopic Thermal Probe – Can stop bleeding from ulcers and other GI problems by burning the blood vessel or abnormal tissue(s)
  • Argon Plasma Coagulation & Radio-Frequency Ablation – Thermal techniques implemented for the treatment of blood vessels in the stomach, small intestines & colon
  • Endoscopic Clips – Used to close a bleeding vessel or other gastrointestinal abnormality
  • Endoscopic Band Ligation – Uses specialized bands to treat bleeding hemorrhoids / esophageal blood vessels
  • Endoscopic Cryotherapy – Can be used to freeze abnormal blood vessels
  • Endoscopic Intravariceal Cyanoacrylate Injection – Uses a special glue to treat stomach bleeds
  • Angiographic Embolization – Injects particles into blood vessels to stop GI bleeds

If gastrointestinal bleeding persists after treatment, surgical intervention may be required.