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Diagnostic Tests for Gastrointestinal bleeding

Diagnostic Test list for Gastrointestinal bleeding:

The list of diagnostic tests mentioned in various sources as used in the diagnosis of Gastrointestinal bleeding includes:

  • Physical examination
    • Look for evidence of anemia - e.g. pale skin and conjunctiva - may suggest chronic oesophagitis, chronic gastritis, peptic ulcer or stomach cancer.
    • Look for signs of shock - e.g. elevated heart rate, low blood pressure.
    • Abdominal examination for tenderness , masses, enlarged liver or spleen
    • Examine for other evidence of chronic liver disease - e.g. jaundice, bruising, enlarged breasts in males, scratch marks, swollen abdomen.
    • Digital rectal examination inspecting the color of the stool and for blood
  • Blood tests
    • Hemoglobin level will not be an accurate guide to blood loss during early stages
    • Full blood count and ESR
    • Iron studies
    • Electrolytes and renal function tests
    • Liver function tests looking for chronic liver disease
    • Helicobacter pylori serology (to test for presence of bacteria that is now accepted to cause duodenal ulcers, but does not distinguish from past or present infection)
    • Gastrin levels, if multiple peptic ulcers to help diagnose Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
    • Tumor markers including Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) (for bowel cancer and stomach cancer)
    • Bleeding disorder screen if there is a personal history and/or family history of bleeding - e.g. Coagulation studies , platelet count, hemophilia testing, platelet aggregation and release studies.
  • Stool tests
    • Stool occult blood test
    • Microscopy looking for ova, cysts, parasites of Hookworm
  • Urea breath test - test of choice for following the response to treatment of Helicobacter pylori.
  • Upper and lower endoscopy - looking for the source of the bleeding, biopsy to exclude cancer and inflammatory bowel disease; and to detect Helicobacter pylori (bacteria shown to increase risk of peptic ulcer disease).
  • Radioactive scan following intravenous chromium or technetium-99 - may show the site of bleeding in obscure cases.
  • Stool tests
  • Occult blood test
  • Gastroscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Nasogastric tube
  • Blood tests
  • ECG

Home Diagnostic Testing

These home medical tests may be relevant to Gastrointestinal bleeding causes:

Tests and diagnosis discussion for Gastrointestinal bleeding:

The site of the bleeding must be located. A complete history and physical examination are essential. Symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, stool color (to black or red) and consistency, and the presence of pain or tenderness may tell the doctor which area of the GI tract is affected. Because the intake of iron or foods such as beets can give the stool the same appearance as bleeding from the digestive tract, a doctor must test the stool for blood before offering a diagnosis. A blood count will indicate whether the patient is anemic and also will give an idea of the extent of the bleeding and how chronic it may be.


Endoscopy is a common diagnostic technique that allows direct viewing of the bleeding site. Because the endoscope can detect lesions and confirm the presence or absence of bleeding, doctors often choose this method to diagnose patients with acute bleeding. In many cases, the doctor can use the endoscope to treat the cause of bleeding as well.

The endoscope is a flexible instrument that can be inserted through the mouth or rectum. The instrument allows the doctor to see into the esophagus, stomach, duodenum (esophago-duodenoscopy), colon (colonoscopy), and rectum (sigmoidoscopy); to collect small samples of tissue (biopsies); to take photographs; and to stop the bleeding.

Small bowel endoscopy, or enteroscopy, is a new procedure using a long endoscope. This endoscope may be introduced during surgery to localize a source of bleeding in the small intestine.

Other Procedures

Several other methods are available to locate the source of bleeding. Barium x-rays, in general, are less accurate than endoscopy in locating bleeding sites. Some drawbacks of barium x-rays are that they may interfere with other diagnostic techniques if used for detecting acute bleeding; they expose the patient to x-rays; and they do not offer the capabilities of biopsy or treatment.

Angiography is a technique that uses dye to highlight blood vessels. This procedure is most useful in situations when the patient is acutely bleeding such that dye leaks out of the blood vessel and identifies the site of bleeding. In selected situations, angiography allows injection of medicine into arteries that may stop the bleeding.

Radionuclide scanning is a noninvasive screening technique used for locating sites of acute bleeding, especially in the lower GI tract. This technique involves injection of small amounts of radioactive material. Then, a special camera produces pictures of organs, allowing the doctor to detect a bleeding site.

In addition, barium x-rays, angiography, and radionuclide scans can be used to locate sources of chronic occult bleeding. These techniques are especially useful when the small intestine is suspected as the site of bleeding since the small intestine may not be seen easily with endoscopy. (Source: excerpt from Bleeding in the Digestive Tract: NIDDK)

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Gastrointestinal bleeding:

The following list of conditions have 'Gastrointestinal bleeding' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Gastrointestinal bleeding or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Gastrointestinal bleeding:

The following list of medical conditions have 'Gastrointestinal bleeding' or similar listed as a medical complication in our database.


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