Coffee grounds emesis: not just an upper GI bleed

J Emerg Med. 2012 Jul;43(1):44-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.05.008. Epub 2009 Jun 28.


Background: Acute upper gastrointestinal (UGI) bleeding manifests as hematemesis, melena, or hematochezia. Initial management is identical, irrespective of nasogastric (NG) aspirate results. Current practice includes early upper endoscopy. Significantly fewer high-risk bleeding lesions are found on endoscopy in patients with coffee grounds vs. bloody NG aspirates.

Objective: We present a case series to illustrate that patients with coffee grounds emesis (CGE) often have other unsuspected illnesses that may be overlooked due to preoccupation with the GI bleed.

Case reports: A retrospective chart review of a series of 6 patients presenting with CGE and admitted for upper GI bleeding was performed. All 6 patients were hemodynamically stable at admission. NG lavage showed coffee grounds that cleared easily. None of the patients required blood transfusions during their hospital stay. Endoscopy in 3 of 6 patients failed to find any significant UGI lesions or stigmata of recent bleed.

Conclusion: Although patients were admitted for UGI bleeding, the more significant associated diagnoses included acute myocardial infarction, urosepsis, small bowel obstruction, bilateral pulmonary emboli, and acute renal failure. Hemodynamically stable patients presenting with coffee grounds NG aspirate and no fall in hemoglobin/hematocrit should be evaluated for other non-GI bleeding-related conditions even as the GI bleed is being managed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / complications
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal
  • Female
  • Gastric Lavage
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Hematemesis / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / complications*
  • Intestine, Small
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Retrospective Studies