What is a Retroperitoneal Hematoma?

Meg Brannagan

A retroperitoneal hematoma is a pocket of blood found in the lower back in an area known as the retroperitoneal space. A hematoma forms when blood collects within an enclosed place, such as the soft tissues found among organs and their supporting membranes. The peritoneal cavity is the space that is formed between two types of membranes surrounding the organs of the abdomen and the pelvis. The retroperitoneal cavity is the area found behind the peritoneum.

A retroperitoneal hematoma may occur as a result of a car accident.
A retroperitoneal hematoma may occur as a result of a car accident.

The organs of the retroperitoneal space include those that are found in the lower back that are not supported by the peritoneal lining. These include the pancreas, the kidneys and adrenal glands, and the duodenum of the small intestine. The area also includes vessels, such as the aorta and the inferior vena cava.

Retroperitoneal hematomas may occur after a person experiences physical trauma near the lower back.
Retroperitoneal hematomas may occur after a person experiences physical trauma near the lower back.

A retroperitoneal hematoma is most commonly caused by a traumatic impact to the body or an injury caused by an object penetrating the abdominal or pelvic cavities. The internal bleeding that occurs with these types of injuries collects to form a hematoma. The great vessels of the vena cava and the aorta, as well as the vessels that support the retroperitoneal organs, can be injured to cause the initial bleeding.

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The main cause of retroperitoneal hematoma is trauma to the abdominal or pelvic cavities.
The main cause of retroperitoneal hematoma is trauma to the abdominal or pelvic cavities.

Retroperitoneal hematoma may also occur during a cardiac catheterization procedure. During the procedure, a catheter is introduced into a large vessel to reduce blockage. Some physicians give anticoagulant medications after the procedure to avoid the risk of a blood clot. If the catheter punctures a large vessel during catheterization, it will bleed and can cause a retroperitoneal hematoma. If the patient has had medication to reduce blood clots, bleeding may be difficult to stop.

Damage to the vena cave or the aorta can cause bleeding, which can result in a pocket of blood called a retroperitoneal hematoma.
Damage to the vena cave or the aorta can cause bleeding, which can result in a pocket of blood called a retroperitoneal hematoma.

Surgery to remove the hematoma puts the patient at risk of hemorrhage, and he or she may lose a large amount of blood, depending on the size of the hematoma. Many people with a hematoma often have other injuries to abdominal and pelvic organs, as well. Treating a retroperitoneal hematoma through surgery involves evacuating the collected blood and stopping the cause of bleeding.

The organs of the retroperitoneal space include the adrenal glands.
The organs of the retroperitoneal space include the adrenal glands.

Retroperitoneal hematomas may grow significantly enough to reduce blood flow to the rest of the body, because the blood is collecting in the peritoneal space. Large retroperitoneal hematomas may also prevent the work of other organs. For example, a hematoma may grow large enough to block the ureters, which are found in the retroperitoneal portion of the pelvis. This can cause urine to back up into the kidneys, resulting in hydronephrosis and disrupting the body’s ability to filter by-products and electrolytes.

The retroperitoneal space includes vessels, like the inferior vena cava.
The retroperitoneal space includes vessels, like the inferior vena cava.
Many people with a hematoma often have other injuries to abdominal and pelvic organs, as well.
Many people with a hematoma often have other injuries to abdominal and pelvic organs, as well.

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Discussion Comments

anon959651

Doctors are required by law to notify you of the risks with any procedure and it is done in writing on a form which you must sign. The problem is that most people sign the forms because the doctor said they should, and never ask questions.

When you are having a medical procedure done, never sign any forms that you do not completely understand. Ask the doctor, and if you don't understand what he said, ask your nurse! Don't sign until you are confident that you understand what you are signing.

Conversely, just because something is listed as a possible side effect does not mean that you will have it, just that someone, somewhere did at one time.

KaBoom

@strawCake - My friends dad had a cardiac catheterization done, and they did warn him of the risks. He decided the possible benefits of the procedure outweighed the risks.

However, he was getting a cardiac catheterization done as a treatment for something. This procedure is also sometimes used for medical imaging. In that case, I might opt to have a different type of imagine done knowing the risks. However, in the case of my friends father, his decision made sense.

strawCake

A retroperitoneal hematoma sounds like a very risky condition. I wonder if doctors warn patients if could happen during a cardiac catheterization procedure? I think I would think twice about having that operation knowing the possible side effects.

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