Home Symptoms Bloody Sputum – 15 Possible Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Bloody Sputum – 15 Possible Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

bloody sputum

Sputum, often known as phlegm, is a coughed-up mixture of saliva and mucus. Bloody sputum can occasionally be associated with some conditions of the respiratory system.

Blood-tinged sputum can be a sign of a significant medical problem. It is a rather common event that isn’t usually a cause for alarm.

Seek medical help right away if you’re coughing up blood with little or no phlegm.

Causes of Bloody Sputum

Bloody sputum can be caused by the following conditions:

  • Bronchiectasis
  • Pneumonia
  • Anticoagulants such as warfarin, rivaroxaban, dabigatran, and apixaban.
  • Severe chronic cough
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchitis
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Severe nosebleed
  • Drug use such as cocaine
  • Mitral valve stenosis
  • Pulmonary embolism

Diagnosis of Bloody Sputum

A doctor will usually obtain a medical history and perform a physical examination to establish whether a medical problem is causing blood to appear in the sputum. During the examination, sputum and blood samples may also be taken for testing by the doctor.

Additional tests may be required in rare circumstances. A chest X-ray, a CT scan, or a bronchoscopy, which includes inserting a camera at the end of a tube into the airway, are examples.

Treatment of Bloody Sputum

To treat blood-tinged sputum, you must first treat the underlying cause. If you’re coughing up a lot of blood, the first priority is to stop the bleeding and avoid aspiration, which happens when you breathe foreign material into your lungs. After that, the focus of treatment is on addressing the underlying cause.

Even if you know the underlying cause of your symptoms, consult your doctor before using any cough suppressants. Cough suppressants can cause airway obstructions or retain sputum stuck in your lungs, which can prolong or worsen an infection.

Treatment modalities for bloody sputum include:

  • Antibiotics/ Anti-TB medication: used for treating infectious causes such as pneumonia or tuberculosis.
  • A bronchoscopy. This allows for a closer examination of potential bleeding causes. An endoscope is a small instrument that is introduced into the airways through the nose or mouth. The end can be fitted with tools. Some are used to stop bleeding, while others are used to remove a blood clot.
  • Embolization.  A catheter is inserted into a major vessel responsible for the bleeding, the cause of the bleeding is determined, and the vessel is sealed with a metal coil, chemical, or a fragment of gelatin sponge.
  • Blood product transfusion. If clotting issues or excessively thin blood are the cause of blood in sputum, a blood transfusion, such as plasma, clotting factors, or platelets, may be necessary.
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This is a treatment modality for lung cancer.
  • Surgery. This may be necessary to remove a damaged or malignant lung section. Surgery is normally only chosen as a last resort when bleeding is severe or chronic.

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