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Coughing Up Blood (Hemoptysis)

Treatments for Hemoptysis

For people who are coughing up blood, treatments aim to stop the bleeding, as well as treat the underlying cause of hemoptysis. Treatments for coughing up blood include:

Bronchial artery embolization. A doctor advances a catheter through the leg into an artery supplying blood to the lungs. By injecting dye and viewing the arteries on a video screen, the doctor identifies the source of bleeding. That artery is then blocked, using metal coils or another substance. Bleeding usually stops, and other arteries compensate for the newly blocked artery.

Bronchoscopy. Tools on the end of the endoscope can be used to treat some causes of coughing up blood. For example, a balloon inflated inside the airway may help stop bleeding.

Surgery. Coughing up blood, if severe and life-threatening, may require surgery to remove a lung (pneumonectomy). 

Treatments for hemoptysis should also address the underlying reason for coughing up blood. Other treatments for people coughing blood may include:

  • Antibiotics for pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation for lung cancer
  • Steroids for inflammatory conditions

People with excessively thin blood because of medication use may require transfusion of blood products or other medications to curb blood loss.

Coughing Up Blood: When to See a Doctor

The most common reason for coughing up blood is acute bronchitis, which typically gets better on its own without treatment. People with bronchitis with small amounts of blood in the mucus for less than a week can watch carefully and wait for their condition to improve.

Coughing up blood can also be a sign of a serious medical condition. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Blood in mucus that lasts longer than a week, is severe or getting worse, or comes and goes over time
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Soaking sweats at night
  • Fever higher than 101 degrees
  • Shortness of breath with your usual activity level

People requiring treatment for coughing blood are nearly always treated in a hospital, until the cause is identified, and the threat of serious bleeding passes.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James E. Gerace, MD on July 02, 2013

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