Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

It is important to diagnose the cause for GI bleeding. Diagnosis usually involves a medical history, including a history of symptoms and any changes in bowel habits, a physical examination, and diagnostic tests (e.g., blood test, stool test).

Endoscopy (e.g., esophago-duodenoscopy, enteroscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy) uses a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera attached to visualize the GI tract. These procedures can be used to locate the source of the bleeding and determine the severity. In some cases, instruments can be inserted through the endoscope to remove a tissue sample for microscopic evaluation (biopsy) or to stop the bleeding.

A capsule endoscope is a new diagnostic test in which the patient swallows a capsule that contains a tiny camera. This test allows the physician to view hard-to-reach areas of the GI tract. Imaging tests (e.g., CT scan, angiography, radionuclide scan) also can be used to locate GI bleeding.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Feb 2008

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015