Watermelon stomach: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management

J Gastrointest Surg. 2003 Jul-Aug;7(5):652-61. doi: 10.1016/s1091-255x(02)00435-3.


Watermelon Stomach (WS) has been increasingly recognized as an important cause of occult gastrointestinal blood loss. Clinically, patients develop significant iron deficiency anemia and are frequently transfusion dependent. The histologic hallmark of WS is superficial fibromuscular hyperplasia of gastric antral mucosa with capillary ectasia and microvascular thrombosis in the lamina propria. Endoscopic findings of the longitudinal antral folds containing visible columns of tortuous red ectatic vessels (watermelon stripes) are pathognomonic for WS. Trauma to the mucosal epithelium overlying engorged vessels by gastric acid or intraluminal food results in bleeding. Treatment options for WS include endoscopic, pharmacologic, and surgical approaches. Endoscopic therapy, including contact and non-contact thermal ablations of the angiodysplastic lesions, is the mainstay of conservative therapy. However, many patients fail endoscopic therapy and develop recurrent acute and chronic GI bleeding episodes. Surgical resection may be the only reliable method for achieving a cure and eliminating transfusion dependency. Traditionally, surgery was used only as a last resort after patients failed prolonged medical and/or endoscopic therapy. However, based on the experience garnered from the literature we recommend a more aggressive surgical approach in patients who fail a short trial of endoluminal therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Female
  • Gastric Antral Vascular Ectasia* / diagnosis
  • Gastric Antral Vascular Ectasia* / physiopathology
  • Gastric Antral Vascular Ectasia* / surgery
  • Gastric Mucosa / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastroscopy
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation
  • Male
  • Pyloric Antrum / pathology