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Internal Bleeding Due to Trauma

Internal bleeding is one of the most serious consequences of trauma. Usually, the bleeding results from obvious injuries that require rapid medical attention. Internal bleeding may also occur after a less severe trauma or be delayed by hours or days. Some internal bleeding due to trauma stops on its own. If the bleeding continues or is severe, surgery is required to correct it.

Causes of Internal Bleeding Due to Trauma

Internal bleeding may occur after any significant physical injury. There are two main types of trauma, and either may cause internal bleeding:

  • Blunt trauma. This kind of trauma happens when a body part collides with something else, usually at high speed. Blood vessels inside the body are torn or crushed either by shear forces or a blunt object. Examples are car accidents, physical assaults, and most falls.
  • Penetrating trauma. This happens when a foreign object penetrates the body, tearing a hole in one or more blood vessels. Examples are gunshot wounds, stabbings, or falling onto a sharp object.

Almost any organ or blood vessel can be damaged by trauma and cause internal bleeding. The most serious sources of internal bleeding due to trauma are:

  • Head trauma with internal bleeding (intracranial hemorrhage)
  • Bleeding around the lungs (hemothorax)
  • Bleeding around the heart (hemopericardium and cardiac tamponade)
  • Tears in the large blood vessels near the center of the body (aorta, superior and inferior vena cava, and their major branches)
  • Damage caused by trauma to the abdomen such as liver or spleen lacerations or perforation of other soft organs

 

Symptoms of Internal Bleeding Due to Trauma

In the large majority of cases of internal bleeding that results from trauma, the injury is obvious and serious. People naturally seek immediate medical help because of pain. Or witnesses call 911.

Sometimes, internal bleeding may occur after a less severe trauma. As the bleeding continues, symptoms appear and steadily get worse. Symptoms depend on the type of trauma and what body part was involved. For example:

  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling can be caused by Internal bleeding from trauma in the liver or spleen. These symptoms get worse as the bleeding continues.
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting can result from any source of internal bleeding once enough blood is lost.
  • A large area of deeply purple skin (called ecchymosis) can result from bleeding into the skin and soft tissues.
  • Swelling, tightness, and pain in the leg can result from internal bleeding in the thigh. Most often, this is caused by a fracture of the thighbone.
  • Headache and loss of consciousness could be the result of Internal bleeding in the brain.

Any of these signs of internal bleeding after a trauma should be treated as a medical emergency. The injured person needs to be evaluated in a hospital emergency room.

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