Definition - What does Hemoperitoneum mean?

A hemoperitoneum is a collection of blood in the potential space between the two layers of a membrane called peritoneum that lines the cavity of the abdomen as well as covers the abdominal organs. In most cases, it is a surgical emergency warranting urgent laparoscopy or laparotomy to gain access into the abdominal cavity. A hemoperitoneum can be fatal because the abdominal cavity can hold over 5 liters of blood and excessive bleeding into this cavity can precipitate a state of shock, which if untreated leads to death.

FertilitySmarts explains Hemoperitoneum

A variety of conditions can cause the buildup of blood in the peritoneal cavity or space:

  • Bleeding from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy or the rupture of the uterus
  • Trauma to the abdominal organs
  • Bleeding from a corpus luteal cyst

The blood in the belly may not cause any symptoms for some time after the precipitating event but later on, the affected person can develop the following problems:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness - the severity could vary according to the amount of the accumulated blood
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure, a cold, clammy skin, rapid, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, and loss of consciousness in the worst case scenario - suggesting a state of shock secondary to excessive blood loss

Ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis can help detect the presence of blood in the peritoneal cavity as well as the potential cause of a hemoperitoneum but CT scan or a diagnostic laparoscopy provides the most accurate results.

After fluid replacement, the doctor will perform an urgent laparoscopic surgery or laparotomy to evacuate blood from the belly. Laparoscopy is preferred in most cases of hemoperitoneum (such as in a ruptured ectopic pregnancy) due to shorter duration of the procedure and less blood loss during the procedure as compared to an open laparotomy.

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