Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Underlying Cause Anatomy

Melena Overview

What is melena?
A person with melena has black stool, which is caused by digested blood in the stool. When blood enters the intestine, it is digested. The waste product of digested blood is black. The source of the bleeding is usually bleeding in the esophagus, stomach or small intestine.

What are the symptoms of melena?
The most common symptom of melena is black stool that looks like tar. Other symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding include vomiting blood, vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds, blood in the stool, rapid pulse, lightheadedness, fainting, pale skin, and other symptoms of anemia.

How does the doctor treat melena?
The treatment for melena depends on the underlying cause. Treatment for melena may include intravenous fluids, blood transfusion, proton pump inhibitors, and upper GI and lower GI endoscopy to control bleeding. Surgery may be required in more severe cases that cannot be controlled with endoscopy.

Continue to Melena Underlying Cause

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Melena References
  1. Imdahl A. Genesis and pathophysiology of lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2001 Feb;386(1):1-7. [11405083]
  2. Palmer K. Management of haematemesis and melaena. Postgrad Med J. 2004 Jul;80(945):399-404. [15254304]
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