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Definition Return to top
Hemothorax is a collection of blood in the space between the chest wall and the lung (the pleural cavity).
Causes Return to top
The most common cause of hemothorax is chest trauma. It can also occur in patients who have:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor may note decreased or absent breath sounds on the affected side. Signs of hemothorax may be seen on the following tests:
Treatment Return to top
The goal of treatment is to stabilize the patient, stop the bleeding, and remove the blood and air in the pleural space. A chest tube is inserted through the chest wall to drain the blood and air. It is left in place for several days to re-expand the lung.
When a hemothorax is severe and a chest tube alone does not control the bleeding, surgery (thoracotomy) may be needed to stop the bleeding.
The cause of the hemothorax should be also treated. In trauma patients, depending on the severity of the injury, chest tube drainage is often all that is necessary. Surgery is often not required.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on the cause of the hemothorax and how quickly treatment is given.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call 911 if you have:
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:
Prevention Return to top
Use safety measures (such as seat belts) to avoid injury. Depending on the cause, a hemothorax may not be preventable.
References Return to top
Eckstein M, Henderson S. Thoracic trauma. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006: chap 42.Update Date: 10/10/2008 Updated by: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.