What is the role of respiratory response in the pathophysiology of hemothorax?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020
  • Author: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM; Chief Editor: Jeffrey C Milliken, MD  more...
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The space-occupying effect of a large accumulation of blood within the pleural space may hamper normal respiratory movement. In trauma cases, abnormalities of ventilation and oxygenation may result, especially if associated with injuries to the chest wall.

A large enough collection of blood causes the patient to experience dyspnea and may produce the clinical finding of tachypnea. The volume of blood required to produce these symptoms in a given individual varies depending on a number of factors, including organs injured, severity of injury, and underlying pulmonary and cardiac reserve.

Dyspnea is a common symptom in cases in which hemothorax develops in an insidious manner, such as those secondary to metastatic disease. Blood loss in such cases is not so acute as to produce a visible hemodynamic response, and dyspnea is often the predominant complaint.

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