UMEM Educational Pearls

Upper gastrointestinal (UGI) bleeds accounts for only 0.2% of complaints for children presenting to the pediatric emergency department. However, these children can present in significant distress. In fact, critically ill children with UGI bleeds while in the ICU had an increase mortality rate compared to those without UGI bleeds.
There is a long differential for the cause of the bleeding, although age may be a clue. In the first month of life, consider maternal blood ingestion or vitamin K deficiency. In infants and toddlers, think of reflux esophagitis or ingestion. In older children, consider ulcer disease.
Remember to ask about different food ingestions that may mimic blood: licorice, red drinks, red fruits and vegetables, spicy/hot flavored snacks, bismuth, and iron.
Key points to remember in the management of pediatric patients:
-Gastroccult (NOT hemoccult)
-Apt-Downey test (looking for maternal blood)
-XRs indicated only for concern of ingestion
-NG lavage are done in 3 to 5 ml/kg aliquots
-If your patients have a G-tube, lavage through this may lead to false-negative findings or underestimation of the severity of the bleeding.


Ngo, K and Kim TY. Emergency Department Management of Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding in Pediatric Patients. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Practice 2014; 11: 1-16.