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What are Hematomas?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hematomas are a collection of blood, usually partially clotted, that tends to result from the breakage of a vein or blood vessel. Simple ones, often called bruises, can be the result of minor trauma. When a medical professional refers to hematomas, however, they are typically referring to ones caused by a major traumatic injury or from surgery.

During surgery, damage to surrounding blood vessels can cause hematomas to form, which tends to slow down healing. In some cases, exceptionally large ones may need to be drained so that surgery sites are not impacted by the collection of partially clotted blood.

There are several severe types that can cause problems or complicate healing:

  • Epidural hematomas are usually related to head trauma and cause blood to pool between the skull and the exterior layer of the brain, the dura. They can create pressure on the brain, resulting in loss of brain function. Blood may need to be removed surgically to reduce pressure.

  • Subdural hematomas occur between the brain’s dura and the middle layer of the brain, called the arachnoid layer. Frequently, they are caused by trauma to the brain that has resulted in loss of consciousness, seizures or concussions. This type is difficult to remove. Larger ones may cause significant loss of brain function and may not be removable, while smaller ones may be surgically removed with generally good recovery rates.

  • Subarachnoid hematomas are often caused by stroke, aneurysm, or extremely significant head injury. These are the most severe type, because of their location in the brain. They form between the arachnoid layer of the brain and the pia mater, which stretches into the cerebral cortex. This type can cause death without immediate surgical intervention.

A hematoma can occur in soft tissues at surgical sites. Usually, keeping the stitches of surgical wounds slightly open can relieve pressure and allow any interior bleeding to be absorbed by bandages.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1003881 — On Sep 28, 2020

What happens if you are pregnant and have a hematoma?

By SarahJay123 — On Nov 07, 2012

Thanks for the article. I've got my consultation for hematoma surgery tomorrow at a private health care center so I'm trying to read up on the procedures.

By anon295122 — On Oct 04, 2012

My mum has a very large hematoma after a radiologist hit an artery during a routine kidney biopsy. It's been in there for two months now. It hasn't shrunk at all. She is immunosuppressed due to treatment (chemo) for vasculitis, so the specialists are saying that they are just going to leave it in her. To me, it's a lump of rotten dead blood encapsulated in her side and must post a risk.

I'm desperately calling for meeting after meeting with all of her specialists in the hospital (she's still in there after two and a half months) to find out what dangers it could post just sitting in her - and not really getting anywhere fast.

Anyone know how long this should take to absorb into her system? She was mucking out the horse a few weeks before the vasculitis hit badly, then after the muck up with the bleed ended up in intensive care for 19 days, everything that could go wrong went wrong. The hematoma is our worry now though, as there is so little information online. She's only 63.

By rjhirst — On Oct 04, 2012

I came across this page after I had looked up info on a ruptured cyst on my ovary. I was told I still have blood in my pelvis and around my bowel, etc., and it still hurts, but I was wondering if it can be dangerous to have blood hanging around in that area.

But while I was reading other people's comments, they rang a few bells for me. Those of you who have suffered quite bad bleeding, have you thought of being tested for a bleeding disorder Like VonWillibrands? Your symptoms sound similar. I hope you all get better soon, but having a diagnosis can help a lot.

By Hollybear41 — On Jun 25, 2012

I also have a hematoma after my airbag deployed during a car accident. It started out about six inches by nine inches on my lower left arm. Just a few days ago it was still about 3 inches by five inches. After going swimming in an 86 degree pool twice, it shrunk down to about 2 inches in diameter. I was told that warm, moist heat helps the blood reabsorb.

By anon266288 — On May 05, 2012

I had surgery today for a hematoma. I had a horse riding accident that left it on the side of my leg just above the knee area. My hematoma was on top of the muscle and the doctor went in to drain it because it was restricting my mobility.

When I went in, they ran a battery of tests, checking me out from head to toe, made me put on a special thigh high sock on my other leg, then they wheeled me into surgery and knocked me out. From there, I guess he cut open my leg. I still have not seen the incision yet, but I have what looks like a ball that is still filling up with fluid that I have to drain into a syringe and let the doctor know how much fluid came out in milliliters.

Other than being sick from the anesthesia (I threw up once I got home) and having a really sore throat, the pain level in my leg feels the same but I can feel pressure relief even though I am in pain.

By anon234263 — On Dec 11, 2011

I had a breast reduction, with about seven pounds removed. I have developed two hematomas in the right breast. It has only been 11 days since the surgery and he said if they have not gone down in size with in 3 more days he will drain them. What will be the after effects?

By anon180260 — On May 26, 2011

I had a set of swollen glands removed from my right abdomen four months ago which left a hematoma (20cm in diameter looking at the ct scan result)which I have been told will take six months to seep back into my body. It has been extremely painful and prevents me being mobile and I cannot walk for more than five minutes without nearly collapsing. I was active and walked a great deal before this surgery.

I see the surgeon again in about three weeks and will want to know how long I have to suffer this kind of pain and immobility. My GP just prescribes painkillers and gives me sick notes for work, but my employer won't wait forever for me to go back to work. Six months is a long time to suffer this kind of pain.

By anon172036 — On May 02, 2011

I too recently had a hematoma. I had an ICD inserted and an artery was hit. Immediately I was in extreme pain. It went from my clavicle down to my ribs, across my whole chest, filled my breasts, armpit, arm and all areas that were close.

Friday night I looked like I had implants gone bad and was told it would be repaired in the morning. I had awful pain during the night. By morning, I started to resemble the Hulk. They increased pain meds, and tried wrapping me in Ace bandages both nights. No surgery. Sunday, I was no better and they said they would now repair it come Monday sometime.

The pain was indescribable. Wrapping did not work. Pain meds did not help. Nothing helped. By then, I was starting to worry about my breathing. I felt like I had phlegm and my whole upper and some of my lower body was bruised. The cardiovascular surgeon came and they took me to the OR asap. They got the blood out by suction and by the two doctors pushing the blood out of me. the pain is gone now for the most part. still some bruising, but I am exhausted. I can't stay awake and I am just not myself. I would like to know when I will get my energy back, sleep through the night and no more tiredness during the day and just be myself ?

By anon163691 — On Mar 28, 2011

I had an internal hematoma in my abdomen the size of a grapefruit two weeks after my complete hysterectomy with removal of both ovaries and cervix.

I have bled for 57 days straight and on my second pelvic ultrasound the hematoma has only gone down 1 cm. My doctor doesn't want to do surgery to drain or remove it and wants to watch and wait and let it drain.

I'm in a lot of pain but am taking pain medication for that. I am wondering how much longer it will take before it disappears. Is this a result of something done wrong by the surgeon? Do they recur? Does this happen very often?

By anon144085 — On Jan 18, 2011

I’m in hematoma hell too. I had an abdominal hysterectomy in November. The doctors didn’t tell me that I had a hematoma when they sent me home from the hospital. Two weeks later, I was readmitted and they diagnosed the hematoma 10x10x10 (the size of a softball). They put in a drain tube which eventually clogged. I insisted they remove it because they refused to reposition it correctly (thank you universal health care).

Now I’m told that I have an abscess at the drain site of the hematoma. Yesterday after a particularly painful internal exam I was told that they will not drain the abscess because it will only make it worse. O.K, doctors, if you say so. The explanation is that the remaining blood from the hematoma pools and causes irritation. How quaint.

So, almost three months later I’m still not able to work, and I’m still feeling generally lousy and weak. I was not offered pain medication or antibiotics (rolls eyes). I give up on doctors. I’ll handle this with natural products.

By anon120738 — On Oct 21, 2010

I had a hysterectomy two weeks ago and have developed a hematoma in the empty cavity. It has been "seeping" blood for five days. My doctor didn't offer much in the way of suggestions or tell me how long this would last.

Anyone able to tell me how to help make it go away or how long this will last? I would like to return to work in two weeks but can't if it is still bleeding.

By anon104950 — On Aug 18, 2010

I've had three surgeries in the past three years and when I had the second surgery, it got infected and I had a big hematoma for two years. When they removed it, I had to spend 15 days in the hospital.

now after three months I have another hematoma. I'm afraid. i don't want any more and i want to know what kind of doctor i have to seek to find out how i avoid them.

By anon63918 — On Feb 04, 2010

Anon 37407: What happened with the hematoma you developed after your hysterectomy? I have the same thing and want to know what happened to yours.

By anon44056 — On Sep 04, 2009

I have a hematoma on right arm just above elbow from an airbag deploying during an auto accident. How can I get this thing smaller?

By anon37407 — On Jul 19, 2009

I had a hysterectomy 3 weeks ago including the removal of the ovaries and 3 very large fibroids. Two days after the op I had quite large hematomas under the scar which were soft. They are not bleeding but they are very hard now. They are not getting any smaller. Will I need surgery to remove them as I had a dreadful time and don't want anymore.

By jewell — On Feb 04, 2009

A patient comes in for a left heart cath and gets a hematoma at the cath site. Is this considered a complication?

By tigger2000 — On Jul 17, 2008

1. is the surgery to repair hematomas usually successful?

2. are there any complications after hemotoma repair surgery? if so, what are the complications?

3. what is the extent of stay in hospital after hematoma surgery?

By anon7594 — On Jan 30, 2008

I had an emergency c-section over a month ago. During my pregnancy I took two anti-coagulants (Lovenox and aspirin: I stopped the aspirin a week before the induction and the Lovenox the day before). The day after surgery doctors restarted the Lovenox shots (I wasn't convinced it was necessary as I was bleeding quite freely from my stitches). As a result (that and I bruise easily), I got a large hematoma that a month after the surgery still hasn't completely disappeared (it's still raised maybe an inch from the scar) and has all but stopped "oozing" blood or bleeding. I do have a check up in two weeks with my doctor, but would like to know what are the chances that I will have to have surgery to remove the hematoma? And what will the surgery be like?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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