Definition

Angiodysplasia of the colon occurs when blood vessels in the colon enlarge. They may become fragile and result in occasional bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Normal Anatomy of the Intestines

Normal Anatomy of the Large and Small Intestine

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Angiodysplasia of the colon is caused by dilated connections between veins and capillaries or arteries in the large intestine (colon)

    
  • The tendency for abnormal blood vessel connections increases with age
  • Colon spasms may contribute to enlargement of blood vessels in the area
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk of angiodysplasia of the colon include:

        
  • Age: over 60
  • Injury to the GI tract
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Lung problems
  • von Willebrand's disease—a disorder of the blood
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Excessive or abnormal contractions of the colon
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of angiodysplasia of the colon may include:

        
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Your bodily fluids and waste may be tested. This can be done with:

        
  • Blood tests
  • Stool tests
  • Your internal structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

        
  • Colonoscopy
  • Upper endoscopy (EGD)
  • Radiology testing with CT scan
  • Angiography
  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may not be necessary, since about 90% of cases of angiodysplasia of the colon stop bleeding on their own. Treatment options include the following:

    Colonoscopy

    Your doctor can often treat tissues with heat to seal bleeding blood vessels during a colonoscopy.

    Angiography

    The blood supply to the bleeding area can be clotted through angiography.

    Medical Therapy

    Hormonal therapy with estrogen can be helpful for some causes.

    Medications called somatostatin analogs may be used to prevent bleeding in some people.

    Surgery

    Surgery to remove the affected area of the colon may sometimes be necessary.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent angiodysplasia of the colon.