Hemoptysis

Hemoptysis means coughing up blood from your airways or lungs. The most common cause of hemoptysis is the least serious. It is usually a ruptured small blood vessel caused by coughing or an infection. In some cases, the cause of hemoptysis is not known. Hemoptysis may also be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer, pneumonia, a blood clot, or other types of lung disease. You should always contact a caregiver if you develop hemoptysis. This is important, as even mild cases of hemoptysis may lead to serious breathing problems. Major bleeding from the airway is considered a medical emergency, and needs to be evaluated and managed promptly to avoid complications, disability, or death.

Your caregiver may perform tests to find out if the bleeding is coming from your lungs. Some of these tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray.

  • A computerized X-ray scan (CT scan or CAT scan).

  • Bronchoscopy. This test uses a flexible tube (a bronchoscope) to see inside the lungs.

TREATMENT

  • Treatment for hemoptysis depends on the cause. It also depends on the quantity of blood. Infrequent, mild hemoptysis usually does not require specific, immediate treatment.

  • If the cause of hemoptysis is unknown, treatment may involve monitoring for at least 2 or 3 years. If you have a normal chest X-ray and bronchoscopy, the hemoptysis usually clears within 6 months.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • For follow-up care as directed.

  • If your symptoms are not improving or are getting worse.

  • If you have any other questions or concerns.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You begin to cough up large amounts of blood.

  • You develop problems with your breathing.

  • You begin vomiting blood or see blood in your stool.

  • You develop chest pain.

  • You feel faint or pass out.

  • You develop a fever over 102° F (38.9° C), or as your caregiver suggests.