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Gastrointestinal System

Critical Care

The Gastrointestinal System is the mouth, gullet (or esophagus), stomach and intestines, that carry food into our body.

Bleeding - A very common reason for admission to intensive care is bleeding from the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Ulcers in the stomach or intestines may cause belly pain, nausea and vomiting of blood. Tar-black stool is another sign of bleeding from the stomach or small intestines, called "upper GI bleeding." Tumors, outpouchings (called diverticuli), and blood vessel abnormalities in the lower intestines can cause bleeding from the colon or rectum called "lower GI bleeding." Endoscopy is a common procedure used to find the source of and sometimes even stop the bleeding (see Information Sheet on Gastrointestinal Endoscopy).

Malnutrition - is a common complication of critical illness. Good nutrition is very important for the body's ability to heal and fight off infections. Food can be given by mouth, through a feeding tube (when a patient is unable to eat by mouth, see Information Sheet on Feeding Tubes) or by vein (when the gut is not working to take in food).