written by: AlyssaAst
• edited by: dianahardin
• updated: 5/24/2011
A hematoma can develop after surgery for numerous reasons. While most hemotomas resolve without treatment, some can cause serious complications. If severe hematomas are left untreated, death of tissue and infection can occur.
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A hematoma is an accumulation of blood that occurs outside of the blood vessels, usually caused by a hemorrhage. It is not unusual for a hematoma to occur after surgery, generally at the surgical site, as a result of damage to the surrounding blood vessels. In some cases, improper care of the patient after surgery can lead to a hematoma, as well. The hematoma usually occurs only a few hours after surgery and can cause pain and discoloration. In severe cases, serious complications can arise, if the oxygen supply to the surrounding tissues becomes compromised. This can lead to death of the tissue and pose a risk for infection.
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Causes of Hematomas
Most often, a hematoma after surgery is accidental. During surgery, blood vessels are often cauterized to stop bleeding. Sometimes, a blood clot will be unsuccessful and bleeding will occur. As a result, the hematoma develops.
In some cases, hematomas can occur as a result of the use of certain medications. Patients taking anticoagulant medications are advised to cease the use of the medications 2 to 3 weeks prior to any surgery. When these medications are taken, the risk for bleeding and hematoma increases during and after surgery.
Blood pressure also plays a role in the development of hematomas. If blood pressure increases, it can cause strain on the blood vessels, resulting in the hematoma. For this reason, it is recommended strenuous activities be avoided for a period of time after surgery. Certain blood disorders increase the risk for hematomas also; therefore, it is vital to inform the surgeon about any blood disorders prior to surgery.
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Treatment for Hematomas
Should a hematoma occur after surgery, treatment may not be needed if the hematoma is minor. If the hematoma is large, though, the blood may need to be surgically removed, to allow the area to heal properly. Although most hematomas resolve on their own, after a few days, as the collection of blood dissolves, surgery may be required to allow the area to properly drain.
For minor cases of hematomas, the affected area can often be treated at home. Hematomas respond well to hot compresses. Applying hot compresses to the area will increase blood circulation. As a result, the accumulation of blood will be dissolved more quickly, allowing the area to heal. If the area is inflamed, anti-inflammatories can be used. Pain medications can also be used, as long as they do not contain aspirin, because aspirin can cause bleeding to worsen.
If a hematoma does not resolve within a few days, or if the area becomes hard and painful to touch, medical attention should be sought to reduce the risk of infection or damage to surrounding tissues.