GI Bleed

When to be suspicious

  • Visible hematemesis, hematochezia, or melena
  • Hypotension
  • Tachycardia
  • Unexplained anemia
    • Acute: Normocytic
    • Chronic: Microcytic (from iron deficiency)
  • Elevated BUN (from reabsorption of RBC breakdown products in GI system)

Upper GI Bleed

  • Proximal to ligament of Treitz (at duodenojejunal flexure)
  • Hematemesis or melena, can potentially present with hematochezia if bleed is brisk enough (blood acts as an intestinal promotility agent)
  • Esophageal varices, Mallory-Weiss or Boerhaave syndromes, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, etc.

Lower GI Bleed

  • Distal to ligament of Treitz
  • Melena or hematochezia
  • , Malignancy, diverticulosis, angiodysplasia, etc.
    • Heyde’s Syndrome: Triad of aortic stenosis, acquired Von Willebrand Syndrome, and GI bleed from angiodysplasia (pathophysiology: Aortic valve induces shearing of Von Willebrand Factor, exposing cleavable sites at which ADAMTS-13 acts upon. This inhibits regulation of angiogenesis as well as the clotting cascade (1))


  • ABCs
    • Intubate if upper GI bleed with concern for airway protection
    • Place 2 large-bore IVs for access
    • Resuscitate as needed with IV fluid boluses
  • Focused history and physical exam
    • History of liver disease?
    • Any NSAID or alcohol use?
    • On antiplatelets or anticoagulation?
    • How much blood lost? Is it dark black or bright red?
    • Digital rectal exam (contraindicated only in neutropenia): assessing for melena vs bright red blood, also check for masses and/or hemorrhoids
  • Labs
    • CBC (to check hemoglobin and platelet levels)
    • CMP (to check for electrolyte/renal abnormalities as a result of fluid loss, also to evaluate for hepatic injury)
    • Type and cross
    • PT/INR, fibrinogen
    • Lactic acid
  • Management
    • Supplement hemodynamics with IV fluid boluses as above
    • Transfuse packed red blood cells to keep hemoglobin > 7
    • Keep patient NPO
    • If able, hold antiplatelets and anticoagulation (obviously, this must be weighed against risks of thrombosis/embolism, will vary patient-to-patient)
    • Reverse anticoagulation if necessary/able
    • Hold β-Blockers (Tachycardia is often first sign of GI bleed, β-Blockers blunt our ability to evaluate this)
    • Start IV pantoprazole 80mg x1, then 40mg BID
    • If suspicious of a variceal bleed (upper GI bleed in a patient with cirrhosis), start a continuous octreotide infusion (to divert blood from portal system)
    • If an upper GI bleed in a patient with cirrhosis, start prophylactic antibiotics (generally IV Ceftriaxone, but can consider Fluoroquinolones if penicillin allergy) -> Has been shown to decrease infection and mortality rates (2)
    • Consult GI for endoscopic evaluation and management


  1. Theis, S. (2020, July 10). Heyde syndrome. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from
  2. Chavez-Tapia NC, Barrientos-Gutierrez T, Tellez-Avila F, et al. Meta-analysis: antibiotic prophylaxis for cirrhotic patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding – an updated Cochrane review. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;34(5):509–518.

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