Hemothorax

Definition

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

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.


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.

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