Learning About a Mallory-Weiss Tear

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Esophagus, stomach, and intestines

What is a Mallory-Weiss tear?

A Mallory-Weiss tear is a rip or tear of a mucous membrane in the digestive tract. Mucous membranes are tissues that line body cavities or canals. They make a thick, slippery liquid called mucus. The mucus protects the membranes and keeps them moist.

This kind of tear is most often caused by severe vomiting. It usually happens where the lower esophagus and the stomach meet. (The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.)

How is a Mallory-Weiss tear diagnosed?

You will have a physical exam by your doctor. You may also have blood tests. And you might have an endoscopy. This is a test that uses a thin, flexible, lighted viewing tool (endoscope) to allow a doctor to see the insides of organs, canals, and cavities in the body.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Belly pain.
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Dark stools that look like tar or that contain dark red blood.

How is a Mallory-Weiss tear treated?

In most cases, the tear heals on its own in a few days. You may not need treatment.

If you do need treatment, you may have to stay in the hospital. Treatment may include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to help prevent dehydration.
  • Medicines that block stomach acid.
  • Repair through the endoscope with a special clip (endoclip) to stop the bleeding.
  • A blood transfusion to replace heavy blood loss.
  • Surgery (only in severe cases).

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.