GI Bleeding

August 4th, 2010

If left untreated and unrecognized, a GI bleed can become life-threatening.  Paying close attention to the clues your body is giving you can be life-saving.  A person may be experiencing weakness, extreme fatigue and then pass it off as if maybe they are working too hard and too much.  This may go on for weeks undetected.  Eventually the person will become so weak that they are unable to get out of bed or may faint.

There are a few things to keep an eye out for.  Depending where the bleeding is occurring will clue you in on the type of symptoms you can identify.  If the GI bleeding is lower in the GI tract, there may be cramping in the abdomen,  black tarry stools (usually smearing when you wipe with tissue paper), foul odor, and sometimes you may notice if the stool is maroon or bright red in color.  If the bleeding is up high in the GI tract, you may start to vomit blood.  Either upper or lower needs treatment from a physician.

To diagnose a GI Bleed, the physician will order lab tests, check the stool for blood (Hemoccult), may insert a tube through the nose that goes into the stomach to suction blood off of the stomach, which will also let the physician and nurses know how much bleeding is coming from the stomach.  The primary care physician will usually consult a Gastrointestinal physician that specializes in this type of disorders.  The patient will usually have an endoscopy that will help the physician in locating the bleeding.

If the Hemoglobin and Hematocrit  blood test come back abnormally low, then the physician is notified and most likely the patient will be given a blood transfusion, after they have been typed and cross-matched by the blood bank.  This is to ensure that the patient matches the blood product that is given and in hopes that there is no reaction from receiving the blood.  Always check and make sure that the patient has no religious beliefs that would keep them from receiving the blood product.

If during the endoscopy, the physician finds and area where he visualizes the blood coming from, he will cauterize the artery or vein and stops the bleeding.  There is usually a good outcome for the person that seeks medical attention in a timely manner, however, it can be detrimental if the condition is ignored.

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