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ESSENTIAL INQUIRIES

  • Fever, cough, and other symptoms of lower respiratory tract infection.

  • Smoking history.

  • Nasopharyngeal or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Chest radiography and complete blood count (and, in some cases, INR).

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Hemoptysis is the expectoration of blood that originates below the vocal cords. It is commonly classified as trivial, mild, or massive—the latter defined as more than 200–600 mL (about 1–2 cups) in 24 hours. Massive hemoptysis can be usefully defined as any amount that is hemodynamically significant or threatens ventilation. Its in-hospital mortality was 6.5% in one study. The initial goal of management of massive hemoptysis is therapeutic, not diagnostic.

The lungs are supplied with a dual circulation. The pulmonary arteries arise from the right ventricle to supply the pulmonary parenchyma in a low-pressure circuit. The bronchial arteries arise from the aorta or intercostal arteries and carry blood under systemic pressure to the airways, blood vessels, hila, and visceral pleura. Although the bronchial circulation represents only 1–2% of total pulmonary blood flow, it can increase dramatically under conditions of chronic inflammation—eg, chronic bronchiectasis—and is frequently the source of hemoptysis.

The causes of hemoptysis can be classified anatomically. Blood may arise from the airways in COPD, bronchiectasis, and bronchogenic carcinoma; from the pulmonary vasculature in left ventricular failure, mitral stenosis, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and arteriovenous malformations; or from the pulmonary parenchyma in pneumonia, fungal infections, inhalation of crack cocaine, or granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly Wegener granulomatosis). Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage—manifested by alveolar infiltrates on chest radiography—is due to small vessel bleeding usually caused by autoimmune or hematologic disorders, or rarely precipitated by warfarin. Most cases of hemoptysis presenting in the outpatient setting are due to infection (eg, acute or chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, aspergillosis). Hemoptysis due to lung cancer increases with age, causing up to 20% of cases among older adults. Less commonly (less than 10% of cases), pulmonary venous hypertension (eg, mitral stenosis, pulmonary embolism) causes hemoptysis. Most cases of hemoptysis that have no visible cause on CT scan or bronchoscopy will resolve within 6 months without treatment, with the notable exception of patients at high risk for lung cancer (smokers older than 40 years). Iatrogenic hemorrhage may follow transbronchial lung biopsies, anticoagulation, or pulmonary artery rupture due to distal placement of a balloon-tipped catheter. Obstructive sleep apnea may be a risk factor for hemoptysis. Amyloidosis of the lung can cause hemoptysis. No cause is identified in up to 15–30% of cases.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

A. Symptoms

Blood-tinged sputum in the setting of an upper respiratory tract infection in an otherwise healthy, young (age under 40 years) nonsmoker does not warrant an extensive diagnostic evaluation if the hemoptysis subsides with resolution of the infection. However, hemoptysis is frequently a sign of serious disease, especially in patients with a high prior probability of underlying pulmonary pathology. Hemoptysis is the only symptom found to ...

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