Hemothorax is when blood collects between our chest wall and our lungs. This area where blood can pool is known as the pleural cavity. The buildup of the volume of blood in this space can eventually cause our lung to collapse as the blood pushes on the outside of the lung.

The pooling of blood in our chest can have numerous causes. It is most common after major chest injuries or surgeries that include opening our chest wall, especially heart or lung surgery. Certain conditions that cause our blood not to clot properly can also cause hemothorax.

Hemothorax can be caused by many of the same things that cause pneumothorax. Pneumothorax happens Uploaded Imagewhen too much air gets between our chest wall and lungs. This puts too much pressure on our lung and causes the lung or part of the lung to collapse.


The most common symptoms of hemothorax include:

  • Pain or feeling of heaviness in your chest
  • Feeling anxious or nervous
  • Dyspnea, or having trouble breathing
  • Breathing quickly
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Breaking out in cold sweats
  • Skin turning pale
  • High fever over 100°F (38°C)

If our heart is racing and we are having trouble breathing, go to an emergency room right away to be checked for hemothorax or other conditions that may be causing these symptoms.


The most common cause of hemothorax is a major injury to our chest. This is known as a blunt force trauma injury. This can happen when our chest experiences a sudden and intense impact. Examples include falling hard on the front of our body or getting in a car accident and part of the vehicle like the steering wheel or a deployed air bag hits the chest extremely hard.

These injuries can damage our chest wall, our lungs, and major blood vessels around our chest. This allows blood to leak into our chest cavity and put pressure on our lungs. Getting cut or stabbed in the chest can also cause blood to leak into the chest cavity and cause hemothorax.

Hemothorax also commonly happens as a complication of a major heart or lung surgery that requires a surgeon to open the chest wall. Blood can leak into the chest cavity if the blood does not clot properly after the surgeon closes the incisions, or if an organ or vessel is cut open and leaks blood.

Other possible causes of hemothorax include:

  • Blood not clotting properly and leaking into the chest cavity
  • Cancer in the lungs
  • Fluid and cancer around the lungs, called malignant pleural effusion
  • Cancerous tumors in our chest wall
  • Large vein torn open when a catheter is inserted while one in the hospital
  • Tissue around our lungs dying, called pulmonary infarction
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) type 4, a condition that affects our connective tissues

Hemothorax can also happen without warning during a pregnancy or after  given birth. This is known as spontaneous hemothorax. It doesn’t always have an identifiable cause.


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