Blood in Stools: Tests to Locate the Site of the Bleeding

Blood in stools can be an alarming sight for most people. While it can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, it’s not always the case. Blood in stools is an indication that there is a possible bleeding in the digestive tract. In some cases, blood in stools are so minor that it’s barely detectable with the naked eye.

Locating the Site of the Bleeding

Any bleeding in the stool should be evaluated by a doctor. Patients should provide any details they deem useful to help doctors locate the possible site of the bleeding.

Case in point: a tarry and black stool can indicate ulcer or other problems located in the digestive tract’s upper part. On the other hand, maroon-colored or bright red blood can indicate a possible problem in the digestive tract’s lower part like diverticulitis or hemorrhoids.

After a physical exam and getting the patient’s medical history, healthcare providers might order some tests to determine the cause and the site of the bleeding.


This surgical procedure involves opening and examining the abdomen. This may be requested if other tests will not be able to determine the cause of the bleeding.

Nasogastric Lavage

This test can tell doctors if the bleeding is located in the lower or upper side of the digestive tract. This procedure will involve the removal of the stomach contents using a tube that is inserted through the patient’s nose. If there is no evidence of blood in the stomach, the bleeding is possibly in the lower digestive tract.


This procedure will involve injecting a type of dye into the vein. The special dye will make the blood vessels visible on a CT (computerized tomography) scan or an X-ray. This procedure can also detect bleeding as the dye will leak out of the blood vessels.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

This procedure uses an endoscope through the mouth and down the esophagus to the duodenum and the stomach. This procedure is done to determine the possible source of the bleeding. Endoscopy is also used to collect tissue samples for biopsy.

Radionuclide Scanning

Radionuclide scanning is done by injecting a small amount of radioactive material into the vein. A special camera will be used to see the blood flow and detect where the bleeding is from.


This procedure is similar to EGD. However, to view the colon, the scope is inserted through the rectum. Just like EGD, colonoscopy can also collect tissue samples for biopsy.

Barium X-ray

In this procedure, a contrast material (known as barium) is used to make the digestive tract show up on the X-ray. The material is either inserted in the rectum or swallowed.


Enteroscopy is similar to colonoscopy and EGD. It is used to examine the patient’s small intestine. In some instances, this will entail swallowing a capsule that has a small camera inside. When the tiny camera passes through the digestive tract, images are transmitted to a video monitor.

Associated Symptoms

There are instances when the patient is unaware of the bleeding and will not experience any symptoms. In other cases, symptoms will also manifest and include weight loss, fainting, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain. The symptoms that can manifest will depend on the bleeding’s length, location, severity, and cause.

Depending on what the cause is, blood in stool treatments can range from taking a Sitz bath to eating a diet rich in fiber. Eating a high-fiber diet is done to relieve constipation that might aggravate or cause anal fissures and hemorrhoids. Other treatments will be recommended or prescribed based on the diagnosis.

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