Melena vs. Hematochezia

By Jaxson

  • Melena

    Melena or melæna refers to the dark black, tarry feces that are associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The black color and characteristic strong odor are caused by hemoglobin in the blood being altered by digestive enzymes and intestinal bacteria.

    Iron supplements may cause a grayish-black stool that should be distinguished from melena, as should black coloration caused by a number of medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate (the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol), or by foods such as beetroot, black liquorice, or blueberries.

  • Hematochezia

    Hematochezia is the passage of fresh blood through the anus, usually in or with stools (contrast with melena). Hematochezia is commonly associated with lower gastrointestinal bleeding, but may also occur from a brisk upper gastrointestinal bleed. The difference between hematochezia and rectorrhagia is that, in the latter, rectal bleeding is not associated with defecation; instead, it is associated with expulsion of fresh bright red blood without stools. The phrase bright red blood per rectum (BRBPR) is associated with hematochezia and rectorrhagia. It is also important to differentiate from hematopapyrus – blood on the toilet paper noticed when wiping. The term is from Greek αἷμα (“blood”) and χέζειν (“to defaecate”).

  • Melena (noun)

    The passage of dark, tarry stools containing blood, a result of upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Hematochezia (noun)

    The presence of fresh blood in stools, often due to lower gastrointestinal bleeding.


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