A hematoma is a collection of blood trapped outside of a blood vessel. It's what we think of as a bruise or a contusion. It's often seen under the skin as a black and blue spot on your arm or leg, or a bump on your head after an injury. It can be almost anywhere on or in your body. It can also occur in an internal organ. This can be more serious.

A hematoma is caused by an injury with damage to small blood vessels. This causes blood to leak into the tissues. Blood forms a pocket under the skin that swells and looks like a purplish patch. Hematomas sometimes form under the skin from bleeding during childbirth and can be particularly serious. Another serious form of hematoma forms after a fall on the head, called a subdural hematoma.

Gradually the blood in the hematoma is absorbed back into the body. The swelling and pain of the hematoma will go away. This takes from 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the size of the hematoma. The skin over the hematoma may turn bluish then brown and yellow as the blood is dissolved and absorbed. Usually, this only takes a couple of weeks but can last months.

Home care

  • Limit motion of the joints near the hematoma. If the hematoma is large and painful, avoid sports and other vigorous physical activity until the swelling and pain goes away.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Continue with ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a thin towel or cloth. Don’t put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. Continue the use of ice packs to ease pain and swelling as needed.

  • Take acetaminophen for pain relief, unless you were given a different pain medicine to use. Talk with your provider before using this medicine if you:

    • Have chronic liver or kidney disease

    • Have had a stomach ulcer or digestive tract bleeding

    • Are taking blood-thinner medicines.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If X-rays or a CT scan were done, you'll be told if there is a change in the reading, especially if it affects treatment.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Redness around the hematoma

  • Increase in pain or warmth in the hematoma

  • Increase in size of the hematoma

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • If the hematoma is on the arm or leg, watch for:

    • More swelling or pain in the extremity

    • Numbness or tingling or blue color of the hand or foot

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