Severity and Outcomes of Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding With Bloody Vs. Coffee-Grounds Hematemesis

Am J Gastroenterol. 2018 Mar;113(3):358-366. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2018.5. Epub 2018 Jan 30.


Objectives: Numerous reviews indicate bloody hematemesis signifies more severe bleeding than coffee-grounds hematemesis. We assessed severity and outcomes related to bleeding symptoms in a prospective study.

Methods: Consecutive patients presenting with hematemesis or melena were categorized as bloody emesis (N=1209), coffee-grounds emesis without bloody emesis (N=701), or melena without hematemesis (N=1069). We assessed bleeding severity (pulse, blood pressure) and predictors of outcome (hemoglobin, risk stratification scores) at presentation, and outcomes of bleeding episodes. The primary outcome was a composite of transfusion, intervention, or mortality.

Results: Bloody and coffee-grounds emesis were similar in pulse ≥100 beats/min (35 vs. 37%), systolic blood pressure ≤100 mm Hg (12 vs. 12%), and hemoglobin ≤100 g/l (25 vs. 27%). Risk stratification scores were lower with bloody emesis. The composite end point was 34.7 vs. 38.2% for bloody vs. coffee-grounds emesis; mortality was 6.6 vs. 9.3%. Hemostatic intervention was more common (19.4 vs. 14.4%) with bloody emesis (due to a higher frequency of varices necessitating endoscopic therapy), as was rebleeding (7.8 vs. 4.5%). Outcomes were worse with hematemesis plus melena vs. isolated hematemesis for bloody (composite: 62.4 vs. 25.6%; hemostatic intervention: 36.5 vs. 13.8%) and coffee-grounds emesis (composite: 59.1 vs. 27.1%; hemostatic intervention: 26.4 vs. 8.1%).

Conclusions: Bloody emesis is not associated with more severe bleeding episodes at presentation or higher mortality than coffee-grounds emesis, but is associated with modestly higher rates of hemostatic intervention and rebleeding. Outcomes with hematemesis are worsened with concurrent melena. The presence of bloody emesis plus melena potentially could be considered in decisions regarding timing of endoscopy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Preservation
  • Blood Transfusion / statistics & numerical data
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / complications
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / surgery
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Heart Rate
  • Hematemesis / etiology
  • Hematemesis / mortality
  • Hematemesis / physiopathology*
  • Hematemesis / therapy
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Hemostasis, Endoscopic / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melena / etiology
  • Melena / mortality
  • Melena / physiopathology*
  • Melena / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract*


  • Hemoglobins