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Blood in Stool

Blood in Stool Diagnosis continued...

Nasogastric lavage. A test that may tell your doctor whether bleeding is in the upper or lower digestive tract. The procedure involves removing the contents of the stomach through a tube inserted into the stomach through the nose. If the stomach does not contain evidence of blood, the bleeding may have stopped or is more likely in the lower digestive tract.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). A procedure that involves inserting an endoscope, or flexible tube with a small camera on the end, through the mouth and down the esophagus to the stomach and duodenum. The doctor can use this to look for the source of bleeding. Endoscopy can also be used to collect small tissue samples for examination under a microscope (biopsy).

Colonoscopy. A procedure similar to an EGD except that the scope is inserted through the rectum to view the colon. As with an EGD, colonoscopy can be used to collect tissue samples to biopsy.

Enteroscopy. A procedure similar to EGD and colonoscopy used to examine the small intestine. In some cases this involves swallowing a capsule with a tiny camera inside that transmits images to video monitor as it passes through the digestive tract.

Barium X-ray. A procedure that uses a contrast material called barium to make the digestive tract show up on an X-ray. The barium may either be swallowed or inserted into the rectum.

Radionuclide scanning. A procedure that involves injecting small amounts of radioactive material into a vein and then using a special camera to see images of blood flow in the digestive tract to detect where bleeding is happening.

Angiography. A procedure that involves injecting a special dye into a vein that makes blood vessels visible on an X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan. The procedure detects bleeding as dye leaks out of blood vessels at the bleeding site.

Laparotomy. A surgical procedure in which the doctor opens and examines the abdomen. This may be necessary if other tests fail to find the cause of bleeding.

Health care providers also order lab tests when there is blood in stools. These tests may look for clotting problems, anemia, and the presence of H. pylori infection.

Associated Symptoms

A person with blood in the stool may be unaware of bleeding and might have reported no symptoms. On the other hand, they may also have abdominal pain, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, palpitations, fainting, and weight loss depending on the cause, location, length, and severity of the bleeding.

Blood in Stool Treatments

A doctor may use one of several techniques to stop acute bleeding. Often endoscopy is used to inject chemicals into the site of bleeding, treat the bleeding site with an electric current or laser, or apply a band or clip to close the bleeding vessel. If endoscopy does not control bleeding, the doctor may use angiography to inject medicine into the blood vessels to control bleeding.

Beyond stopping the immediate bleeding, if necessary, treatment involves addressing the cause of bleeding to keep it from returning. Treatment varies depending on the cause and may include medications such as antibiotics to treat H. pylori,ones to suppress acid in the stomach, or anti-inflammatory drugs to treat colitis.  Surgery may be needed to remove polyps or the parts of the colon damaged by cancer, diverticulitis, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Depending on the cause, however, treatment may involve simple things you can do on your own. These including eating a high-fiber diet to relieve constipation that can cause and aggravate hemorrhoids and anal fissures, and sitting in warm or hot baths to relieve fissures.

Your doctor will prescribe or recommend treatment based on the diagnosis.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 15, 2013

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