Pleural cavity normally a potential space, in which blood collects in a hemothorax.
  • Each hemithorax can hold 40% of circulating blood volume

Clinical Features

  • Diminished or absent breath sounds
  • Dullness to percussion

Differential Diagnosis

Thoracic Trauma


CXR with large right sided hemothorax (and widened mediastinum).
Ultrasound scan of the chest showing a left-sided hemothorax.
CT chest of right sided hemothorax.
  • CXR
    • Upright - Fluid collections >200-300cc can usually be seen
    • Supine - Fluid collections >1000cc can be missed
    • Mainstem bronchus intubation can appear like a hemothorax on CXR
  • US
  • CT is gold standard


  • Tube thoracostomy
    • Evacuation of 1000-1500mL of blood immediately or 200mL/hr x 4hr = consider thoracotomy
  • Autotransfuse lost blood if possible

Adult Chest Tube Sizes

Chest Tube Size Type of Patient Underlying Causes
Small (8-14 Fr)
  • Alveolar-pleural fistulae (small air leak)
  • Iatrogenic air
Medium (20-28 Fr)
  • Trauma/bleeding (hemothorax/hemopneumothorax)
  • Bronchial-pleural fistulae (large air leak)
  • Malignant fluid
Large (36-40 Fr)
  • Thick pus


  • Admit

See Also

External Links