Hemothorax

Diseases

A collection of blood between the chest wall and the lung or pleural cavity is a condition known as hemothorax trauma. It is caused primarily by blunt trauma that results in injury of the thorax. This injury ruptures a membrane in the covering of the lungs and allows for blood to spill into the pleural space. Even the smallest of chest injury can cause a significant loss in blood and lead to hemothorax. If left untreated, blood can accumulate and add pressure to the trachea and structures of the thorax. This can limit the amount of blood that can fill the heart’s ventricles. This condition is similar to a pneumothorax or collapsed lung. Both of these conditions put extra pressure on the lung and reduce the expansion abilities during normal breathing.

Other than chest trauma, there are medical conditions that could contribute to this state. Blood clotting, pulmonary infarction, and lung cancer come with increased risk of development. Heart surgery, and catheter replacement can also result in trauma to the chest area, causing a loss of blood into the pleural cavity. Tuberculosis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and whopping cough are also on this list of risk factors. These conditions can lead to collapsed lungs and result in possible hemothorax. Activities like scuba diving, mountain climbing and flying are also amongst the risk causes.

Hemothorax symptoms can include clammy skin, pale skin, lowering pulse, decreased breath, and unequal chest rises. These are the most common of symptoms, but are not experienced by all patients. More serious hemothorax symptoms include rapid breathing, shortness of breath, discoloration of skin that appears blue or purple, and excessive heart rate. Restlessness and anxiety are also reported and can add to the difficulty of breathing. Complications that can arise from hemothorax include collapsed lung, shock, pneumothorax, and possible death.

Chest x-rays and CT scans are used to diagnose the condition, as well as pleural fluid analysis. Hemothorax treatment begins with the stoppage of bleeding and clearing out the blood and air in the devoid space. Chest tubes can be inserted in the area to drain the fluids. The lungs will expand in most cases. Surgeons will determine the correct diameter of tubes to reduce the risk for blood clotting, as it is necessary to maintain the proper function of the tubes.

Cleaning the tubes is an important part of treatment aimed to reduce the risk for surgery needed to remove tubes that are no longer functioning properly. A thoracotomy procedure may be required to remove blood from this area and to stop the bleeding, but is rarely required. It consists of a small incision into the pleural space in the chest. Other hemothorax treatment options include blood transfusions to reduce the risk for anemia and to replace lost blood. Safety measures to prevent injury should be taken to reduce the risk of developing hemothorax trauma.