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What Is the Treatment for Black Vomit?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Black vomit, brown vomit, or vomit that has the appearance or consistency of coffee grounds is caused by gastrointestinal bleeding. This is a serious condition, and a doctor consultation should be sought immediately. For this condition, the initial treatment is intravenous fluid replacement and possibly a blood transfusion. Once the patient is stable, the treatment will include locating and stopping the gastrointestinal bleeding. Long-term treatment of black vomit focuses on determining the original problem that led to the gastrointestinal bleeding and to treat that problem.

When a patient exhibits black vomit, it signals to a medical professional that the patient is probably suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding. Occasionally, gastrointestinal bleeding can go on for a long time before a patient has noticeable symptoms. This can mean that the patient has suffered significant loss of fluids and blood by the time he receives medical care. Therefore, the first step in the treatment of black vomit is to stabilize a patient and normalize his vital signs by administering intravenous fluids and blood.

Once the patient is stable, the doctor will try to find the source of the bleeding. This is most often done using an endoscope or camera on a long tube that can be passed through the gastrointestinal tract. Other imaging devices that can be used to search for the source of bleeding include abdominal magnetic resonance imaging, abdominal computed tomography scan, or a sigmoidoscopy.

Black vomit will continue to be a problem unless the source of the gastrointestinal bleeding is found and stopped. There are many different methods that can be used to seal the tear or rupture that is causing the bleeding. An endoscopic thermal probe, radiofrequency ablation, or argon plasma coagulation can be used to cauterize or burn the tissue surrounding the tear and reseal the area. Cryotherapy or freezing the tissue can also be used to seal the rupture.

Gastrointestinal bleeding can also be arrested using a variety of medical devices. Endoscopic clips are tiny clamps that can be used to suture tears. A specially engineered, cryanoacrylate glue can be applied to a rupture in a gastrointestinal blood vessel in a procedure known as endoscopic intravariceal cryanoacrylate injection. An angiographic embolization, which uses injected particles to help clot and stop the bleeding, can also be performed.

Long-term treatment for black vomit will be to determine the problem that caused the gastrointestinal bleeding and to treat the problem. The most common causes of digestive tract bleeding are cancer, ulcers, or an abnormality in the veins near the esophagus. Causes of bleeding in the lower part of the digestive tract include diverticular disease, colitis, and angiodysplasia.

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Discussion Comments

By ZipLine — On Aug 11, 2014

@ddljohn-- Although the cause behind black vomit is usually a rupture, there may be different causes of the rupture itself. It could be an ulcer for example, or polyps in the small intestine, or cancer. These are just a few examples.

So initially, the doctors will run a variety of diagnostic tests to not only look for and locate the rupture, but also to try and get to the bottom of what it occurred. So the treatment isn't just about sealing the rupture but also treating the underlying cause. Yes, at least a minor procedure will be necessary if there is a rupture, but the treatment beyond that will depend on the patient and what the underlying issue is.

By ddljohn — On Aug 10, 2014

So the treatment for black vomit always involves surgery? It all sounds so scary. I would be very scared if I had to go through any of these procedures. But I guess there isn't anything else that can be done, right?

By SteamLouis — On Aug 10, 2014

The coffee ground sign is a very good sign to look out for when there is vomiting and pain. It can be easy to confuse what blood looks like in vomit. Most people expect to see something red when considering blood. But blood in vomit does not look red. If anyone sees red things in vomit, don't be alarmed, it's probably just tomatoes or a similar red food.

Black vomit really looks black. Blood turns into a dark color when it mixes with the contents of the stomach. It also clots a little along the way which gives its coffee ground like appearance. If you see something like coffee grounds in vomit, that's the time to be alarmed and to go to a hospital immediately.

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