When Does a Hematoma Need to Be Drained?

A closeup image of a doctor pointing to a large hematoma on the lower arm of a patient.

When Does a Hematoma Need to Be Drained? Here’s What You Should Know

Hematomas are common injuries that can occur anywhere in the body, often after injury or surgery.

Similar to a bruise, they often heal on their own with at-home care such as rest, icing, and time. Although most hematomas aren’t overly painful or severe, some may be too filled, leading to serious symptoms or external bleeding. 

If you or a loved one is living with a hematoma, it is important to know if and when it should be drained by a medical professional. 

Let’s discuss hematomas in more detail, including an answer to the question, “When do hematomas need to be drained?”

What Is a Hematoma?

A hematoma is a pool of clotted blood that forms under the skin, on an organ, tissue, or body cavity. 

Hematomas can appear anywhere in the body, including the brain, where they are considered most severe and life-threatening. 

Causes and Symptoms

Hematomas are often caused by a broken blood vessel sustained by injury or surgery. 

They commonly appear directly below the skin’s surface or under a nail and resemble a raised bruise that appears purplish-blue. 

They can range from small to large, depending on the severity of the cause. 

Less commonly, hematomas can also happen deep inside the body, where they are not visible in plain sight.

Symptoms vary from person to person but often include

  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Warmth
  • Pain
  • Swelling

How to Treat a Hematoma

Hematoma treatment depends on the injury’s location, symptoms, and cause. 

Some hematomas, especially those just below the skin’s surface, may require no treatment, while others may be considered a medical emergency.

The most common treatment for hematomas is the RICE method.

R — Rest the affected area.

I — Ice the hematoma in increments of 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. 

C — If the area is swollen, apply compression using a bandage. Make sure that the dressing is snug but not too tight.

E — Elevate the injured area. 

Symptom management throughout healing is also a vital aspect of treating a hematoma. For example, if you experience pain, over-the-counter pain relievers may be effective. 

Before beginning a treatment regimen, consult your doctor for specific and personalized care instructions.

When Do Hematomas Need to Be Drained?

In most cases, hematomas do not require drainage.

While many hematomas can be successfully treated using the RICE method, others are more serious and require surgical intervention. That’s where hematoma drainage comes into play. 

Drainage surgery may be recommended if the hematoma puts pressure on the spinal cord, brain, or other major organs. 

In other cases, drainage may be the best route to prevent a hematoma from worsening that is at an increased risk of infection. 

Complete Hematoma Care Is Available at Getwell Urgent Care

You don’t have to live with hematomas forever.

If you have a large or painful hematoma that won’t heal, we encourage you to get checked to get the diagnosis and treatment for blood that has settled in that area.

Getwell Urgent Care is open seven days a week to provide prompt and personalized care and treatment.

No appointments are ever necessary. Simply walk in to get seen today.