Hemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood from the respiratory tract. It is a common finding in patients with lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
The act of coughing up blood is a finding that medical professionals must take seriously, as it could indicate that a serious medical condition is present.
In this article, we will provide an overview of hemoptysis, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Get access to 25+ premium quizzes, mini-courses, and downloadable cheat sheets for FREE.
What is Hemoptysis?
Hemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood or bloody mucus from the lungs or bronchial tubes. This symptom can be indicative of various underlying respiratory issues, including infections, pulmonary embolism, bronchitis, or lung cancer, and warrants further medical evaluation to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
Hemoptysis is a symptom of many underlying conditions, some of which are benign and others that are life-threatening. Some of the most common examples include:
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary embolism
- Lung infection
- Heart failure
- Using blood thinners
While hemoptysis is not always indicative of a serious condition, it’s usually worth investigating further to determine the cause of bleeding.
After it has been discovered that a patient is coughing up blood, the next step is to perform a diagnostic evaluation.
This will usually involve a combination of a physical examination, imaging tests, and lab work. Some examples include:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Complete blood count
- Sputum culture
- Arterial blood gas
- Lung biopsy
The specific tests that are ordered will depend on the individual patient and the suspected cause of their hemoptysis.
The treatment for hemoptysis will depend on the underlying cause. Some causes, such as a lung infection, can be treated with antibiotics. Other causes, such as lung cancer, will require more aggressive treatment.
Airway bleeding can be stopped by administering iced saline to the patient’s airway. Topical vasoconstrictors, such as adrenalin and vasopressin, are also effective in stopping the bleeding.
As a nurse or respiratory therapist, it’s important to immediately notify the physician the moment that hemoptysis is discovered in a patient.
What Does Hemoptysis Mean in Medical Terms?
Hemoptysis is a term that refers to coughing up blood from the respiratory tract. In medical terms, it is defined as the expectoration of blood or bloody mucus from the bronchial tree.
It could potentially be a sign of a serious condition, and thus it is something that medical professionals must take seriously.
How to Cure Hemoptysis?
Hemoptysis is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. As such, it cannot be cured but instead treated.
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the hemoptysis. Some causes, such as an infection, can be treated with antibiotics. Other causes, such as tuberculosis, will require more aggressive treatment.
Why Does Lung Cancer Cause Hemoptysis?
Lung cancer is one of the most common causes of hemoptysis. It is thought to occur because, as a cancerous tumor grows and spreads, it can eventually damage the lungs and cause them to bleed.
However, hemoptysis is not always indicative of lung cancer, and there are many other potential causes.
What is the Difference Between Hematemesis and Hemoptysis?
Hematemesis is the medical term for vomiting blood, while hemoptysis refers to coughing up blood. The key difference between the two is the location from which the bleeding is coming.
With hemoptysis, the blood comes from the lungs or respiratory tract. With hematemesis, the blood comes from the stomach or gastrointestinal tract.
Hematemesis is usually a sign of a more serious condition than hemoptysis, but both require medical attention.
Hemoptysis is a medical term that refers to coughing up blood from the respiratory tract. It can be a sign of a serious underlying condition and thus requires medical attention. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the hemoptysis.
As a respiratory therapist or medical professional, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hemoptysis and to immediately notify a physician if it is discovered in a patient.
If you found this article to be helpful, we have a similar guide on pneumonia that I think you will enjoy. Thanks for reading!
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- Faarc, Kacmarek Robert PhD Rrt, et al. Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care. 12th ed., Mosby, 2020.
- Rrt, Des Terry Jardins MEd, and Burton George Md Facp Fccp Faarc. Clinical Manifestations and Assessment of Respiratory Disease. 8th ed., Mosby, 2019.
- “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Hemoptysis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 5 June 2017.
- “Hemoptysis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1990.