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Gastroenteritis in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Gastroenteritis in Adult

Contributors: Michael W. Winter MD, Christine Osborne MD, Desiree Rivera-Nieves MD, Khaled Bittar MD, Nishant H. Patel MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Gastroenteritis is defined as an acute illness characterized by nausea, emesis, and diarrhea, and associated with malaise, fevers, and anorexia. Gastroenteritis is infectious, with the majority of cases caused by viruses (see viral gastroenteritis). However, particular bacteria (eg, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Listeria, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, and Clostridioides difficile) can cause gastroenteritis as well.

Many cases of gastroenteritis are self-limited to 24-48 hours of illness. Onset with nausea and emesis resolve with an improving diarrhea. It can be difficult to differentiate between bacterial and viral etiologies. More typically, bacterial causes will be associated with bloody diarrhea and high fevers, although certain viral agents can also present with these symptoms.

Patients of all demographics are susceptible to gastroenteritis, and many infectious causes spread via fecal-oral transmission. Recent travel, contact with infected individuals, food exposure, and recent antibiotic consumption can be important information in delineating a patient's risk of particular bacterial or viral causes of gastroenteritis. Immunocompromised patients are also at increased risk of acquiring gastroenteritis and may be subject to more serious infections, as their immune clearance is impaired.


A09 – Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis, unspecified
K52.89 – Other specified noninfective gastroenteritis and colitis

25374005 – Gastroenteritis

Look For

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Bowel obstruction (see Small bowel obstruction, Large bowel obstruction)
  • Chronic mesenteric ischemia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (eg, Crohn disease, Ulcerative colitis)
  • Celiac disease
  • Ischemic colitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Gastritis
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastroparesis
  • Biliary colic (see Biliary calculus)
  • Acute Acute cholecystitis
  • Drug side effects (NSAIDs, alcohol, caffeine, antibiotics, corticosteroids, opiates, digoxin)
  • Malignancy (particularly Esophageal carcinoma, Gastric cancer, Colon cancer, small bowel, Pancreatic carcinoma)
  • Diverticulitis / diverticulosis

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:12/18/2016
Last Updated:10/17/2022
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Gastroenteritis in Adult
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.