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Hematoma after Delivery

12/1/2012 - Theodore Barrett, MD

Editor:  Roger P. Smith, MD

Puerperal hematomas can occur after spontaneous or operative vaginal delivery. Frequently cited risk factors include the use of instruments (vacuum or forceps), nulliparity, preeclampsia, coagulation disorders, multiple gestation and improper surgical repair of an episiotomy. The patient usually complains of pain or an inability to void depending on the size and location of the hematoma.

The mechanism of puerperal hematoma formation in the anterior and posterior triangles involves rupture of branches of the internal pudendal and inferior rectal arteries, respectively. Rupture of descending branches of the uterine artery can cause paravaginal hematoma formation. Rupture of any vessel of the perineal venous plexus may also result in a hematoma. Trauma to these vessels may also occur as a result of a compound presentation, rapid descent, and lacerations from an operative vaginal delivery including unrecognized subcutaneous tissue caught in the vacuum cup. Vessel rupture can occur without laceration of the superficial tissue. Since the subcutaneous tissue in the vagina is quite pliable, hematomas can achieve massive dimensions before expansion ceases.

The diagnosis is generally obvious but should prompt a thorough vaginal examination to determine the extent of the lesion and the presence of any possible associated lacerations. The hematoma may be located at the vulva, may track into the vagina or may expand into the retroperitoneal space or abdominal cavity. In the latter case, blood loss can be concealed leading to hemodynamic instability if not recognized and addressed promptly. Clot formation can cause pressure necrosis and skin rupture resulting in life threatening hemorrhage. Imaging studies can help define the dimensions of the hematoma in situations where physical examination is insufficient. Vital signs and symptoms of hypovolemia should be monitored more frequently in situations where concealed bleeding is suspected. Failure to recognize on-going retroperitoneal bleeding can be fatal.

Successful management depends on prompt recognition. In some situations, the clot may provide sufficient pressure to tamponade bleeding vessels. If the hematoma is not acutely expanding, conservative measures such as ice packs, observation, pain management and bladder drainage may be all that is necessary. In situations where there is an acutely expanding hematoma or a concealed hemorrhage is suspected, more aggressive management is required. The patient’s Input and Output (I and O) should be closely monitored, intravenous access should be maintained in case fluid resuscitation or blood transfusion is required, and the other members of the healthcare team (e.g. Operating Room and Anesthesia personnel) should be notified. Surgical management includes prophylactic antibiotic administration, evacuation of the hematoma, identification and ligation of the bleeding vessels and repair of the cavity defect left from the evacuated hematoma. Artery embolization has been used successfully to manage on-going hemorrhage in situations where bleeding is not controlled with conventional surgical techniques.

Further Reading:

Cunningham FG, et al. eds. Obstetrical Hemorrhage, in: Williams Obstetrics. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2014

Initial Approval:  December 2012; Revised March 2017


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