Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration

Gastrointestinal Bleed, Upper, Discharge Information

What is an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage?

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) hemorrhage, also called upper GI bleeding, is abnormal blood loss from the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach), the stomach, or the duodenum (the first foot of the small intestine that follows the stomach). It is usually seen as bloody vomit, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, or bowel movements that are black and sticky.

The most common cause of upper GI bleeding is an ulcer in the stomach or small intestine. Irritation of the stomach or esophagus can also cause an upper GI bleed. A group of medicines called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are common causes of stomach and esophagus irritation. Another common cause of bleeding is liver disease from chronic alcohol use. Sometimes the esophagus bleeds because it is torn after forceful coughing or vomiting.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

You may need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health and to help prevent GI irritation or another GI bleed.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • You may need to stop any medicines that irritate your GI tract.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat GI irritation
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Replace iron lost from bleeding
    • Treat or prevent nausea and vomiting
  • If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgical wound clean.
    • If you are told to change your dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • If the bleeding was caused by alcohol abuse, follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations to stop drinking.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Bright red blood in your vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Bowel movement with bright red blood
  • Fainting

If you have any of these symptoms, do not drive yourself.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Bloating or pain in your belly
  • Heartburn
  • Black, tarry bowel movements
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
  • Tiredness
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound if you had surgery. These include:
    • The area around your wound is more red or painful
    • Your wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have chills or muscle aches
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-12-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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