Site Map

Hemothorax

Hemothorax is a collection of blood in the space between the chest wall and the lung (the pleural cavity).

Images

Aortic rupture, chest X-ray
Respiratory system

Presentation

Chest tube insertion - series - Pleural cavity

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

The most common cause of hemothorax is chest trauma. Hemothorax can also occur in people who have:

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may note decreased or absent breath sounds on the affected side. Signs or findings of hemothorax may be seen on the following tests:

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to get the person stable, stop the bleeding, and remove the blood and air in the pleural space.

If a chest tube alone does not control the bleeding, surgery (thoracotomy) may be needed to stop the bleeding.

The cause of the hemothorax will be also treated. The underlying lung may have collapsed. This can lead to breathing difficulty. In people who have had an injury, chest tube drainage may be all that is needed. Surgery may not be necessary.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as needed. The person may receive:

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome depends on the cause of the hemothorax, the amount of blood loss and how quickly treatment is given.

In the case of major trauma, the outcome will depend on the severity of the injury and the rate of bleeding.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 if you have:

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:

Prevention

Use safety measures (such as seat belts) to avoid injury. Depending on the cause, a hemothorax may not be preventable.

Related Information

Cancer
Shock
Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
Respiratory

References

Moore SM, Pieracci FM, Jurkovich GJ. Chest wall, pneumothorax, and hemothorax. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:1151-1158.

Raja AS. Thoracic trauma. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 38.

Light RW, Lee YCG. Pneumothorax, chylothorax, hemothorax, and fibrothorax. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 81.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 6/24/2018  

Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.