Haemoptysis refers to coughing out blood. Generally, it appears bright red in colour as opposed to blood from the gastrointestinal tract which appears dark red. It is considered an alarming sign of a serious underlying aetiology.

Massive haemoptysis is referred to as expectoration of > 100-600 mL of blood over a 24 hour period 6.

In 90% of cases, the source of bleeding is the bronchial artery. In the remainder of cases, either the pulmonary artery or another non-bronchial artery (e.g. intercostal, internal thoracic) is the source of bleeding. 

The following are the most common causes:

Other causes:

Rarer causes:

This approach can be followed for small amounts of blood or streaks of blood in sputum. The underlying cause can be life-threatening; however, it is not an emergency.

Bronchoscopy followed by a contrast-enhanced CT scan must be carried out to detect the cause. The above-mentioned common causes and certain uncommon and rare causes must be kept in mind.

  • examine the patient to rule out a non-pulmonary cause of bleeding, such as from the upper airway or gastrointestinal tract
  • confirm and localise the site of bleed with bronchoscopy
  • CT imaging may help in characterisations of lesions if time permits
    • CT arterial angiogram of the thoracic aorta should be considered in certain scenarios, particularly in patients with known cystic fibrosis 
      • provides definitions of the bronchial arteries anatomy and recruited aortobronchial collaterals 8
  • DSA angiography will help localise the vessels involved and also enable embolisation
  • after stabilisation of the patient, further imaging can be carried out and appropriate measures are taken to prevent rebleed
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Article information

rID: 28535
Section: Gamuts
Tag: shetty
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Hemoptysis

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: from tracheal invasion of thyroid tumour
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    Case 2: NSCLC
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    Case 3: bronchial artery aneurysm
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    Case 4: Goodpasture syndrome
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