Lower gastrointestinal bleeding

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Lower gastrointestinal bleeding can be a confusing clinical conundrum, the satisfactory evaluation and management of which requires a disciplined and orderly approach. Diagnosis and management has evolved with the development of new technology such as selective mesenteric angiography and colonoscopy.


This study was undertaken to review the available data in the literature and to determine the current optimum method of evaluation and management of lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage most likely to result in a successful outcome.


Data available on the topic of lower gastrointestinal bleeding in the English literature were obtainedviaMEDLINE search and were reviewed and analyzed.


The colonic origin of lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage in order of decreasing incidence is diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, including ischemic and infectious colitis, colonic neoplasia, benign anorectal disease, and arteriovenous malformations. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of all cases of rectal bleeding are attributable to a cause that is proximal to the ligament of Treitz. Small intestinal sources such as arteriovenous malformations, diverticula, and neoplasia account for between 3 and 5 percent of all cases. Colonoscopy successfully identified an origin in severe hematochezia in 74 to 82 percent of cases. Mesenteric angiography has a sensitivity of 42 to 86 percent. The best method of management depends on whether hemorrhage persists, the severity of continued hemorrhage, the cumulative transfusion requirement, and the specific origin of bleeding.


Lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage is a complex clinical problem that requires disciplined and sophisticated evaluation for successful management. Diverticulosis is the most common cause. Colonoscopy is the diagnostic procedure of choice both for its accuracy in localization and its therapeutic capability. Selective mesenteric angiography should be reserved for those patients in whom colonoscopy is not practical. Precise identification of the bleeding source is crucial for a successful outcome. Specific directed therapy, such as segmental colonic resection for bleeding diverticulosis, is associated with the highest success rate and the lowest morbidity. A complete review of lower gastrointestinal bleeding is contained herein.

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