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The Role of Endoscopy in Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Bleeding

doctor with human anatomy model of the stomach

Gastrointestinal bleeding, a common medical emergency, can arise from various sources within the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. Timely and accurate diagnosis of the source of bleeding is crucial for appropriate management and improved patient outcomes. 

Endoscopy plays a central role in the diagnostic approach to gastrointestinal bleeding, offering direct visualization of the gastrointestinal mucosa and enabling targeted interventions. In Singapore, endoscopy is widely utilized in the evaluation and management of patients with gastrointestinal bleeding. 

This article explores the indispensable role of endoscopy in diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding, highlighting its benefits, techniques, and applications in clinical practice.

Understanding Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding can manifest as either overt bleeding, characterized by visible symptoms such as hematemesis (vomiting blood) or melena (black, tarry stools), or occult bleeding, where blood is not visibly apparent but detected through laboratory testing. 

Causes of gastrointestinal bleeding may include peptic ulcers, esophageal varices, diverticulosis, colorectal cancer, angiodysplasia, Mallory-Weiss tears, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Prompt identification of the source of bleeding is essential to guide appropriate treatment and prevent complications such as hemorrhagic shock, anemia, and organ damage.

Diagnostic Techniques in Gastrointestinal Bleeding

The diagnostic workup for gastrointestinal bleeding typically involves a systematic approach, which may include a combination of clinical assessment, laboratory tests, imaging studies, and endoscopic evaluation. Endoscopy, particularly esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy, plays a pivotal role in identifying the source and severity of bleeding, allowing for targeted interventions and therapeutic measures.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

EGD, also known as upper endoscopy, enables visualization of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum using a flexible endoscope. It is commonly performed in patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding, presenting as hematemesis, melena, or epigastric pain. During EGD, the endoscopist carefully inspects the mucosal lining for lesions, ulcers, varices, or signs of inflammation. Therapeutic interventions such as injection therapy, thermal coagulation, or hemostatic clipping can be performed to control active bleeding or prevent rebleeding.


Colonoscopy is a valuable tool for evaluating lower gastrointestinal bleeding originating from the colon and rectum. It allows for direct visualization of the colonic mucosa and detection of abnormalities such as diverticula, polyps, angiodysplasia, or colorectal tumors. In cases of acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding, colonoscopy can facilitate hemostatic interventions such as injection therapy, electrocoagulation, or mechanical hemostasis using clips or bands.

Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy, a minimally invasive imaging technique, may be employed in cases of obscure gastrointestinal bleeding where the source of bleeding is not identified by conventional endoscopy or imaging studies. In capsule endoscopy, the patient swallows a small capsule containing a camera that captures images of the small intestine as it passes through the digestive tract. This technology allows for comprehensive evaluation of the small bowel mucosa and detection of bleeding sources such as angiodysplasia, ulcers, or tumors.

Diagnostic Yield and Accuracy

Endoscopy offers high diagnostic yield and accuracy in localizing the source of gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly when performed in the acute setting. Studies have demonstrated the superior sensitivity and specificity of endoscopy compared to other diagnostic modalities, such as radiographic imaging or angiography, in identifying bleeding lesions and guiding management decisions. Prompt endoscopic evaluation can expedite diagnosis and facilitate timely intervention, reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with gastrointestinal bleeding.

Multidisciplinary Approach

The management of gastrointestinal bleeding often requires a multidisciplinary approach involving gastroenterologists, surgeons, interventional radiologists, and critical care specialists. Endoscopy serves as a cornerstone in this collaborative effort, providing valuable diagnostic information and guiding therapeutic interventions to optimize patient outcomes. Close communication and coordination among healthcare providers are essential to ensure timely and comprehensive care for patients with gastrointestinal bleeding.

Emerging Technologies and Innovations

Advancements in endoscopic technology continue to enhance the diagnostic capabilities and therapeutic options for gastrointestinal bleeding. Novel techniques such as chromoendoscopy, magnification endoscopy, and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) offer improved visualization and characterization of mucosal lesions, facilitating early detection and precise localization of bleeding sources. 

Furthermore, innovative endoscopic devices and accessories enable targeted hemostasis, tissue sampling, and mucosal resection, expanding the scope of endoscopic interventions in the management of gastrointestinal bleeding.


Endoscopy plays a fundamental role in the diagnosis and management of gastrointestinal bleeding, providing direct visualization of the gastrointestinal mucosa and enabling targeted interventions to control bleeding and prevent complications. In Singapore, endoscopy is widely utilized as a first-line diagnostic modality in patients presenting with gastrointestinal bleeding, offering high diagnostic yield, accuracy, and therapeutic potential. 

With ongoing advancements in endoscopic technology and techniques, the role of endoscopy in diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding continues to evolve, driving improvements in patient care and outcomes. By leveraging the capabilities of endoscopy and adopting a multidisciplinary approach, healthcare providers can effectively diagnose, treat, and manage gastrointestinal bleeding, improving the quality of care for patients across Singapore.

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