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What is Hematochezia?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hematochezia is the technical term for passing stool with blood in it. It is distinguished from melena, passing dark, tarry stool which contains digested blood, and from bleeding around the anus, which causes bright red blood. In patients with hematochezia, the blood indicates that there is bleeding somewhere in the lower part of the intestinal tract. It can be indicative of a number of medical problems, and can be a cause of concern.

One of the most worrying causes of hematochezia is colon cancer, which can cause blood to appear in the stool as the cancer spreads, since many cancerous tumors bleed. Irritable bowel disease can also cause hematochezia, which can be a concern when it is causing bleeding ulcerations in the lower intestine. Extremely large upper gastrointestinal tract bleeds can also result in bloody stool.

Hemorrhoids are another common reason for people to have bloody stool, as is diverticulosis. Polyps in the bowel, whether or not they are benign, can also lead to the development of hematochezia. Likewise, foreign objects in the bowel can cause bleeding because they may cut the bowel walls. This is a definite cause for concern, as a ruptured bowel is something which requires surgical attention.

Bowel ischemia, in which the supply of blood to part of the bowel is cut off, may cause bloody stools as well. Ischemia is worrying because the tissue which has been cut off can die from lack of blood, which can lead to an abdominal infection. Likewise, trauma may cause bleeding, in which case it is very important to find out where the bleed is located, so that it can be addressed. This may require surgery to explore the bowel and check for signs of damage, in addition to checking for other internal bleeding which could have been caused by the trauma.

When people notice blood in their stool, they should call a doctor. The doctor or a nurse will ask a few questions to determine whether or not the patient needs to come in. In some cases, the doctor or nurse may decide that the patient does not need attention unless the issue persists, or that the issue is not an emergency, so the patient can come in for a routine appointment when one becomes available. In other cases, hematochezia can be cause for a visit to the emergency room for immediate diagnosis and treatment by hospital staff.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 25, 2011

Dogs can experience hematochezia, too. Usually for them, it is not a sign of cancer. It could be anything from sudden changes in food to trying to pass a sharp object they ate. In my dog’s case, the bloody stools were caused by worms.

I was walking my dog in the park, and I had to scoop up his feces and dispose of them properly. This is when I noticed the blood.

I took him to the vet right away, fearing some deadly condition was to blame. I was so happy to learn that he only had hookworms. She gave him a dewormer, and I bought some medicine to prevent the worms from returning.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 24, 2011

Diverticulitis sometimes causes my dad to have bloody stools. The first time he saw the blood, he was afraid he had colon cancer. He got checked out and diagnosed with something less serious.

He has lots of small pouches that bulge through his large intestine in spots that are weak. Sometimes sections of his intestines become inflamed. He frequently gets infections that require antibiotic treatment.

The bloody stools occur when a blood vessel in one of these pouches becomes weak and bursts. The blood usually clots on its own, but my dad’s doctor told him if it ever persists, that he may need surgery.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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