Internal bleeding is when bleeding takes place inside the body, instead of bleeding which can be seen outside the body. The internal bleeding often occurs within tissues, organs, or in cavities of the body. These include the head, chest, and abdomen. A few examples of other potential sites of internal bleeding includes the eye and within tissues that line the heart, muscles, and joints.
Internal bleeding is rather difficult to identify or pinpoint. This is because internal bleeding will not be evident until many hours after it starts and more importantly, symptoms may only take place when there is considerable blood loss or if the blood clot ( hematoma) is big enough to compress an organ and affects the proper functioning of the organ. Internal bleeding is one of the most serious consequences of trauma. Usually, the bleeding results from obvious injuries that require rapid medical attention. Internal bleeding may also occur after a less severe trauma or be delayed by hours or days. Some internal bleeding due to trauma stops on its own. If the bleeding continues or is severe, surgery is required to correct it.
Causes of Internal Bleeding Due to Trauma
Internal bleeding may occur after any significant physical injury. There are two main types of trauma, and either may cause internal bleeding:
- Blunt trauma : This kind of trauma happens when a body part collides with something else, usually at high speed. Blood vessels inside the body are torn or crushed either by shear forces or a blunt object. Examples are car accidents, physical assaults, and falls.
- Penetrating trauma : This happens when a foreign object penetrates the body, tearing a hole in one or more blood vessels. Examples are gunshot wounds, stabbings, or falling onto a sharp object.
Almost any organ or blood vessel can be damaged by trauma and cause internal bleeding. The most serious sources of internal bleeding due to trauma are:
- Head trauma with internal bleeding (intracranial hemorrhage)
- Bleeding around the lungs (hemothorax)
- Bleeding around the heart (hemopericardium and cardiac tamponade)
- Tears in the large blood vessels near the center of the body (aorta, superior and inferior vena cava, and their major branches)
- Damage caused by trauma to the abdomen such as liver or spleen lacerations or perforation of other organs
Symptoms of Internal Bleeding Due to Trauma
In the large majority of cases of internal bleeding that results from trauma, the injury is obvious and serious. People naturally seek immediate medical help because of pain.
Sometimes, internal bleeding may occur after a less severe trauma. As the bleeding continues, symptoms appear and steadily get worse. Symptoms depend on the type of trauma and what body part was involved. For example:
- Internal bleeding in any site within the urinary tract from the bladder to the kidney might result in blood in your urine.
- In the case of gastrointestinal bleeding, your vomit may be bright red blood. If the vomit has been in the stomach for a long duration of time, the vomit may look like coffee
- Abdominal pain and/or swelling can be caused by Internal bleeding from trauma in the liver or spleen. These symptoms get worse as the bleeding continues.
- Light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting can result from any source of internal bleeding once enough blood is lost.
- A large area of deeply purple skin (called ecchymosis) can result from bleeding into the skin and soft tissues.
- Swelling, tightness, and pain in the leg can result from internal bleeding in the thigh. Most often, this is caused by a fracture of the thighbone.
- Headache and loss of consciousness could be the result of Internal bleeding in the brain.
- Any of these signs of internal bleeding after a trauma should be treated as a medical emergency. The injured person needs to be evaluated in a hospital emergency room.