What are the possible complications of hemothorax?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020
  • Author: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM; Chief Editor: Jeffrey C Milliken, MD  more...
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Reexpansion pulmonary edema after evacuation of retained hemothorax is a rare reported complication. Associated factors in the development of this problem appear to be hypovolemia and the administration of large amounts of blood products and other volume expanders in the perioperative period.

Empyema can develop if a retained clot becomes secondarily infected. This can occur from associated pulmonary injuries or from external sources such as the penetrating object or missile that caused the original injury or the presence of a long-standing clotted thoracostomy tube.

Fibrothorax and trapped lung develop if fibrin deposition occurs within a clotted hemothorax. This can lead to persistent atelectasis and a reduction of pulmonary function. A decortication procedure may be necessary to permit lung expansion and reduce the risk of empyema.

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