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A to Z: Hematemesis

May also be called: Vomiting of Blood

Hematemesis (hee-muh-TEM-uh-sis) is bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds. Hematemesis is a sign that someone is bleeding in his or her upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

More to Know

Food enters the stomach through the esophagus and exits through the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. This is the upper gastrointestinal tract. Stomach ulcers, abdominal injuries, overuse of some medications, and certain diseases and conditions can all cause bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

If there is enough blood, it can cause hematemesis. When vomiting occurs, the blood will be bright red if it is fresh, or look like coffee grounds if it has been in the stomach for some time.

Keep in Mind

Hematemesis should be considered an emergency and needs to be treated immediately. Fortunately, many causes of hematemesis clear up on their own, and the majority of cases can be treated effectively without surgery.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.