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What is Internal Bleeding?

By Florence J. Tipton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Internal bleeding is a medical term to describe where, in the body, bleeding occurs that is not visible to the naked eye. Areas where internal bleeding may occur include the head, body organs, body tissue, and abdomen. The causes of internal bleeding are often due to sudden trauma to an area of the body. Doctors may identify internal bleeding through blood tests and imaging technology.

A ruptured artery or vein may cause blood to amass in an area within the body near the rupture. The damaged artery leads to a collection of blood that has escaped from an organ. The significance of the internal bleeding is typically relative to how much damage was caused by the rupture. Whether the rupture occurred in or near an organ, in the brain, or with body tissue may also determine the severity of the bleeding.

Imaging technology may help doctors locate the area of bleeding inside the body. An angiogram is an X-ray that locates the damaged blood vessels. A CT (computerized tomography) is also an X-ray device that uses radiation to check the brain and other areas of the body where bleeding is suspected.

After diagnosing the location of bleeding inside the body, an appropriate form of treatment is usually administered. More severe cases may require prompt medical attention before the bleeding is stopped. Emergency surgery might also be necessary to repair the damaged area. In minor situations, the body may repair the rupture without medical treatment.

A severe blow to the head is a likely cause of hematoma, when a pocket of blood forms outside a ruptured blood vessel. Hematoma is typically the result of body organs that shift and detach from blood vessels to cause bleeding inside or around the brain. This type of injury may occur in one of two types of medical conditions. An epidural hematoma is a traumatic brain injury where blood from the brain collects below the skull from a damaged vein. With a subdural hematoma, internal bleeding occurs inside the skull from a brain injury.

During surgery, the body may hemorrhage — which is the escape of blood from a punctured blood vessel — leading to bleeding inside the body. A patient might be at-risk without prompt action by the surgical team to stop the hemorrhage. The threat could be two-fold: the bleeding itself may cause more damage, and surgery for the original medical attention may be delayed. Hemorrhaging during surgery could also lead to cardiac arrest. This is another life-threatening condition where blood is not pumping from the brain into the heart because it is clogged in another part of the body.

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