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Small Bowel Bleeding.

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Division of Digestive Diseases, CURE Digestive Diseases Research Center, David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, Building 115, Room 212, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


The management of patients with small bowel bleeding remains a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. In most gastrointestinal bleeding episodes, the source of hemorrhage is localized to either the upper gastrointestinal tract or colon; however, in about 5% of cases, upper endoscopy and colonoscopy are nondiagnostic, and the small intestine is the site of bleeding. Patients with suspected small bowel source of bleeding may present with either occult blood loss or recurrent overt gastrointestinal hemorrhage requiring frequent blood transfusions and hospitalizations. Knowing the etiology and site of hemorrhage is essential prior to initiating appropriate therapy. The most common causes of small bowel bleeding are vascular ectasia, tumors, ulcerative diseases, and Meckel's diverticula. For patients with severe obscure bleeding, push enteroscopy with a 220- to 250-cm enteroscope is strongly recommended. This procedure provides not only a thorough examination for diagnosis, but also allows for biopsy, tattooing, and hemostasis of lesions. If enteroscopy is nondiagnostic, capsule endoscopy is recommended. A diagnostic capsule endoscopy will direct appropriate medical, endoscopic, or surgical intervention, depending on whether the lesion is single or multiple, and whether the patient is a surgical candidate for intraoperative enteroscopy. Intraoperative enteroscopy should be strongly considered in patients with recurrent bleeding and a nondiagnostic evaluation. Laparoscopy and intraoperative enteroscopy is highly recommended in young patients (< 50 years of age) because there is an increased frequency of small bowel tumors and Meckel's diverticulum which are amenable to surgical therapy.


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