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What Is Coffee Ground Vomiting?

Coffee ground vomiting most often occurs in individuals suffering from stomach ulcers.
An endoscopy may need to be performed to determine the cause of coffee ground vomiting.
A digestive system perforation can cause coffee ground vomiting.
Coffee grounds, which is what coffee ground vomiting looks like.
Coffee ground vomit is often a sign of ulcers, tears and tumors of the digestive system.
Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Coffee ground vomiting is a term for dark-colored vomit containing blood. Generally associated with ulcers, tears, and tumors within the digestive system, treatment is dependent on the underlying cause. Individuals experiencing this symptom may be treated with medication. Rarely, blood transfusion or surgery may be necessary if the vomiting and bleeding is severe.

Peptic ulcers are the most common cause for coffee ground vomit. Resulting from excessive acid production within the digestive tract, peptic ulcers erode tissues, causing ulcers to form. This particular type of vomit is considered a severe symptom. If left untreated, there is a risk of significant blood loss.

This symptom can also be caused by a Mallory-Weiss tear, which is a perforation within the digestive system. Tears may occur in the esophagus or upper digestive tract, causing it to bleed. Individuals with a Mallory-Weiss tear will often produce dark vomit due to the excessive internal bleeding.

In some cases, coffee ground vomiting can be a sign of a stomach tumor. Some forms of stomach cancer can interfere with mucus production within the stomach’s lining, leaving the tissue vulnerable to inflammation. Extensive inflammation causes bleeding, and if it is excessive, the individual may expel the blood when vomiting.

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The cause of this type of vomiting is usually discovered with imaging tests. X-ray and endoscopic technology are most commonly used to determine the source of bleeding. Blood analysis may also be conducted to check for markers that indicate an infection or other abnormalities. If imaging and laboratory tests prove inconclusive, exploratory surgery may be performed.

Once the cause for the vomiting is discovered, medications are usually given to heal any ulcerated tissue and ease inflammation. Drugs designed to inhibit stomach acid production and neutralize existing acid are commonly prescribed for peptic ulcers. If a Mallory-Weiss tear is found, the individual is given an acid-suppressing drug to allow the tear time to heal on its own. For individuals with stomach cancer, similar drugs may be given in combination with their existing, anticancer treatment regimen.

Alcoholism, Helicobacter pylori infection, and polyps are among several risk factors for conditions associated with coffee ground vomiting. Individuals with a history of certain conditions, including stomach cancer, are considered at greatest risk for this problem. Regardless of the cause, expelling blood when vomiting is considered a serious situation requiring prompt medical attention.

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Discuss this Article

burcinc
Post 3

@feruze-- Yea, people who have never seen coffee ground emesis before can mistake it to be something else. (Coffee ground emesis is another name for this condition). I've mistaken chocolate remnants to be blood before and the other way around too.

I have two ulcers in my stomach and I've vomited coffee ground like blood a couple of times. My doctor described it to me in detail so that I would always know when it happens and can get treatment before it's too late.

He said that when my stomach bleeds, the blood gets digested by my stomach juices. The iron in the blood is oxidized in this process and turns the blood into a dark substance, what looks like coffee grounds or spots of a blackish-brown dark substances to us.

When I'm in doubt, I still go get checked out. I've been told that if it's not treated in time, my stomach acids could leak out of the ulcers and eat away at the surrounding organs. Doesn't that sound horrible? I always get scared out of my mind when I vomit coffee grounds.

SteamLouis
Post 2

@feruze-- I'm not an expert but I know that blood in vomit may not always look like coffee grounds. I believe what it looks like depends on the cause and the location of the problem. If blood looks like coffee grounds, it means that there is a problem in the upper gastrointestinal tract (rather than the lower one). But blood might also appear as red or darker colored clots.

My dad experienced this several times due to his chronic cough which tore the lining of his esophagus. But he wasn't vomiting. If the blood shows up in vomit, it's general from an ulcer in the stomach.

And as far as I know, blood in stool is not coffee like at all, but more tar like and almost black in color, not brown. And this is a sign of a lower gastrointestinal disorder.

bear78
Post 1

I had a helicobacter pylori infection a couple of years ago and my doctor had told me to come in to the hospital immediately if I vomit blood. He didn't describe to me what blood would look like in such a case though.

Nausea and vomiting was a common occurrence for me at the time because of the infection. The nausea didn't stop until after the entire treatment was over, which was huge amounts of antibiotics for about a month.

One day, I was nauseated and vomited, and saw red things in the vomit, which I took to be blood. I went to the hospital and they asked me if I vomited what looked like ground coffee. I said no, that it was red, not brown. I didn't know until then that blood in vomit or stools takes on a brownish color and has a thick ground coffee-like appearance. What I saw was probably tomato skins, as I had had tomatoes in my salad for lunch that day.

I'm glad that I was wrong and hadn't vomited blood. That would have been pretty scary and I might have had surgery. Now I know that blood is not a red color in such cases.

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