Coffee ground vomitus is vomit that looks like, and has the consistency of coffee grounds. It is usually the result of upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. The upper GI tract is made up of the stomach, mouth, throat, esophagus, and the beginning of the small intestine. Vomited blood can originate from any of these places. The blood, which may appear dark red, brown, or black, coagulates and darkens as it sits in the stomach.
Vomiting a significant amount of blood is also called hematemesis. A small amount of blood that is coughed up, spit up, or vomited due to swallowed blood or a nosebleed is generally not cause for concern.
If you experience coffee ground vomitus, call your doctor right away. If it is accompanied by other symptoms, including chest pain or dizziness, seek immediate medical attention or call 911.
Coffee ground vomitus may be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including ulcers, liver disease, and some types of cancer. Diagnostic testing will depend on your symptoms and your medical history.
Treatment of underlying conditions will usually resolve coffee ground vomitus.
Gastrointestinal bleeding is always a serious concern that warrants prompt medical attention. Some conditions associated with coffee ground vomitus include:
- alcoholic liver disease
- aspirin overdose
- bleeding esophageal varices
- blood diseases, including leukemia, hemophilia, and anemia
- cancer of the esophagus
- Christmas disease (hemophilia B)
- damaged or torn blood vessels
- Ebola disease
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- liver cancer
- peptic ulcer
- severe liver damage
- stomach cancer
- swallowed poisons
- tumors of the stomach or esophagus
- yellow fever
Coffee ground vomitus may be a sign of serious illness, especially if accompanied by additional symptoms like:
Be sure to tell your doctor if blood in your vomit was more likely coughed up from your lungs. This is not coffee ground vomitus and will require different diagnostic testing. If possible, bring a small sample of the coffee ground vomitus.
- when the vomiting began
- if you've ever vomited blood before
- the color and consistency of the blood
- accompanying symptoms
- information regarding recent surgery or dental work
- other medical conditions
- list of over-the-counter and prescription medications
- whether you smoke and consume alcohol or other drugs
Depending on your medical history and other symptoms, diagnostic testing may include:
Emergency treatment may include intravenous (IV) fluids and medications to decrease stomach acid. If you've lost a lot of blood, a blood transfusion may be necessary. If bleeding cannot be stopped, surgery may be required.
Further treatment will depend entirely on the diagnosis. When underlying medical conditions are treated, coffee ground vomitus will usually resolve.