A hemothorax is a collection of blood in the space between the chest wall and the lung. The medical term for this space is the pleural cavity. It is also called the pleural space. The most common cause for this condition is a chest injury. It can also happen from:

  • Diseases in the chest.

  • Blood clotting problems.

  • Taking blood thinning medicine.

  • Cancer of the chest.

  • Lung and heart surgeries.

Mild cases of hemothorax may clear without treatment in a couple weeks. More severe hemothorax may require surgical treatment. Because the blood compresses the lung and takes up space, some of the symptoms from this are:

  • Rapid, difficult breathing and shortness of breath.

  • Rapid heart rate, anxiety, and restlessness.

  • The blood pressure may be low and not high enough to support life.

Sometimes with a hemothorax there is also pneumothorax. This means air in the chest. The air is not in the lung but is located outside the lung between the lung and the chest wall. When this happens it can cause added problems because the necessary lung space is taken up by something that is preventing the lungs from working.


Your caregiver can usually tell what is wrong by examination and a chest X-ray.


  • If a hemothorax is mild, it may be watched to see if it will get better without treatment.

  • A more severe case may require having a tube put in to drain the pleural space of the lung. This is called a thoracostomy. It may also be called a chest tube or chest drain.

  • If bleeding continues, surgery may be required to go into the chest to stop the bleeding. Opening the chest is called a thoracotomy.