Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android


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

  • Smoking history.

  • Nasopharyngeal or GI bleeding.

  • Chest radiography and CBC (and, in some cases, INR).


Hemoptysis is the expectoration of blood that originates below the vocal folds. 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 RV 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 upper airway due to malignant invasion or foreign body; from the airways in COPD, bronchiectasis, bronchial Dieulafoy disease, and bronchogenic carcinoma; from the pulmonary vasculature in LV failure, mitral stenosis, PE, pulmonary arterial hypertension, telangiectasias, arteriovenous malformations, and multiple pulmonary artery aneurysms (Hughes-Stovin syndrome); from the systemic circulation in intralobar pulmonary sequestration, aortobronchial fistula; or from the pulmonary parenchyma in pneumonia, fungal infections, inhalation of crack cocaine, granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or Takayasu arteritis with pulmonary arteritis. Hemoptysis can be caused by the parasitic diseases paragonimiasis (most common cause worldwide) and human echinococcosis (also called hydatid disease). Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage—manifested by alveolar infiltrates on chest radiography—is due to small vessel bleeding usually caused by autoimmune or hemostatic disorders, or rarely precipitated by hypertensive emergency or anticoagulant therapy. Most cases of hemoptysis presenting in the outpatient setting are due to infection (eg, acute or chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, infection with Mycobacterium avium complex, aspergillosis). Hemoptysis due to lung cancer increases with age, causing up to 20% of cases among older adults. Pulmonary venous hypertension (eg, mitral stenosis, PE) causes hemoptysis in less than 10% of cases. 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 (patients who smoke cigarettes and are 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 with elevated pulmonary arterial pressure may be a risk factor for hemoptysis. Amyloidosis of the lung can cause hemoptysis, as can endometriosis. Hemoptysis from e-cigarette acute lung injury has been reported. No cause is identified in up to 15–30% of cases.

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.