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 tear in the lining of the esophagus, usually where it meets the stomach. (The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.) This kind of tear is most often caused by forceful vomiting.

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 inside of the esophagus and stomach.

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 (I.V.) fluids to help prevent dehydration.
  • Medicines that block stomach acid.
  • Repair through an endoscope 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.