Whether it occurs in the esophagus, stomach or intestines, gastrointestinal bleeding is a serious problem that can be life-threatening — particularly in older adults. There are a number of ways to try to stop gastrointestinal bleeding using a tube (endoscope) inserted into the gastrointestinal tract to reach the affected area. These include using focused heat, tiny clips or bands, or an injection of a vessel-closing drug.
A new approach — using a substance called hemostatic spray (Hemospray) — aims to complement or replace these more-established methods. Hemostatic spray is an aerosol spray that delivers a powdered blend of minerals to the site of bleeding through an endoscope. The minerals stick to blood and quickly absorb moisture until it forms into a gel. The gel acts as a physical barrier over the bleeding site. It also concentrates clotting substances at the site to facilitate blood clot formation. Hemostatic sprays and powders were first developed for stopping wound bleeding in combat.
Compared with other ways of stopping gastrointestinal bleeding, hemostatic spray has several advantages. It can cover a wide area for more widespread bleeding or for bleeding that's hard to pinpoint or target with other methods. It doesn't involve physically manipulating the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, minimizing the risk of unintentional tissue trauma.
The hemostatic spray can stop bleeding within five minutes 90 percent of the time. Re-bleeding can occur in 20 to 40 percent of people who receive the spray. Still, it appears to be one of the safest ways to stop bleeding.
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