Uncontrolled bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract

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Purpose of review

Acute gastrointestinal bleeding is a frequent emergency situation, whose incidence will likely rise as a result of the increasing use of direct anticoagulants and of the medical progresses resulting in longer life expectancy with underlying comorbidities. Updated guidelines and improvements in the diagnostic and therapeutic tools are now available and will likely improve the management of massive gastrointestinal bleeding in the near future.

Recent findings

The assessment of severity has been improved by validated scores useable upon admission. Massive blood transfusion protocols and specific care in case of bleeding of patients treated with direct anticoagulants, including concentrates of coagulation factors and monoclonal antibodies are now available. The endoscopic management has been facilitated by the use of hemostatic powders and by the use of self-expanding metal stents in case of variceal hemorrhage. New diagnostic tools include emergency video-capsule endoscopy, multiphasic computed tomography angiography and enterography.


The implementation of multidisciplinary diagnostic and therapeutic algorithms for the management of massive bleeding requires a close collaboration between emergency physicians, intensivists, endoscopists, radiologists and surgeons. A sequential strategy involving each of these specialists is desirable for a successful management of acute and massive gastrointestinal bleeding.

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