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Gastrointestinal Bleeding (cont.)

When to seek medical care for gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding

Any presence of blood in the stool or from the upper gastrointestinal tract is significant and needs medical attention. Black or dark stools may represent slow bleeding into the GI tract and should be treated by a doctor.

Any significant bleeding into the GI tract, either vomited blood or blood through the rectum, should be evaluated in the emergency department.

Which specialties of doctors treat gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding?

You may initially be diagnosed with gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding by your primary care provider (PCP), such as a family practitioner, an internist, or child’s pediatrician. You may also see an emergency medicine specialist in a hospital’s emergency department.

You will likely be referred to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in the digestive tract, for further treatment.

What is the outlook for a person with gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding?

The outcome of treatment for gastrointestinal bleeding greatly depends on several factors including:

  • The cause and location of the bleeding
  • The rate of bleeding when the person sees a doctor
  • Prior health problems and conditions
  • Maintain a proper diet and take the medications prescribed as directed.
  • Follow-up with a physician on a regular basis to monitor progress, so that the doctor can prevent further progression and complications of the patient's gastrointestinal bleeding.

Can gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding be prevented?

People can prevent some causes of gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Avoid foods and triggers, such as alcohol and smoking that increase gastric secretions.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet to increase the bulk of the stool, which helps prevent diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.


Saltzman, J.R., MD. "Approach to acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding in adults." UpToDate. Updated: No 12, 2015.

Strate, L., MD. "Approach to acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding in adults." UpToDate. Updated: May 17, 2017.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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Acute gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a potentially life-threatening abdominal emergency that remains a common cause of hospitalization.

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