Abdominal Imaging

, 34:311

The evaluation and management of obscure and occult gastrointestinal bleeding


DOI: 10.1007/s00261-008-9423-5

Cite this article as:
Singh, V. & Alexander, J.A. Abdom Imaging (2009) 34: 311. doi:10.1007/s00261-008-9423-5


Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a common clinical presentation increasing in an aging population, frequently requiring hospitalization and emergent intervention, with significant morbidity, mortality, and costs. It may manifest overtly as hematemesis, melena, or hematochezia, or as an asymptomatic occult bleed. Management typically involves an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or a colonoscopy; these in combination sometimes do not identify a source of bleeding, with the source remaining obscure. Further work up to identify an obscure source frequently requires radiologically detecting the leakage of an intravascular tracer (using tagged red blood cells or angiography) with brisk bleeding or in other cases CT enterography (CTE) to detect bowel wall changes consistent with a bleeding source. Recent advances including capsule endoscopy, CTE, and double-balloon endoscopy have helped to identify bleeding sources beyond the reach of conventional endoscopy. Clinical decision-making about their use is complex and evolving. Knowing their relative merits and weaknesses including yield, contraindications, complications, and cost is essential in coming up with an appropriate management plan. This review covers the rationale for clinical management of obscure sources of GI bleeding, mentioning the approach to and the yield of conventional methods, with an emphasis on the recent advances mentioned above.


Gastrointestinal bleedingOccultObscureManagementReview

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Miles and Shirley Fiterman Center for Digestive Diseases19 East Mayo ClinicRochesterUSA