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Postoperative Bleeding

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is postoperative bleeding?

Postoperative bleeding is bleeding after surgery. The incision may bleed, but bleeding can also occur inside the body. The bleeding may start immediately, or several days after surgery. Postoperative bleeding can become life-threatening.

What causes postoperative bleeding?

Surgical problems can cause postoperative bleeding. For example, blood vessels may need to be secured, or stitches may have come apart. Injury to other organs may also have occurred during surgery.

What increases my risk for postoperative bleeding?

  • Health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, or a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia
  • Medicines such as aspirin that thin your blood and prevent blood clots
  • Vitamin or herbal supplements that affect blood clotting, such as vitamin E, ginkgo, ginseng, or feverfew

What are the signs and symptoms of postoperative bleeding?

  • Blood that soaks through the bandage covering your incision
  • Anxiety or confusion
  • Faster heart rate than normal for you
  • Faster breathing than normal for you, or shortness of breath
  • Urinating less than usual, or not at all

How is postoperative bleeding diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look for the source of your bleeding. Your provider will ask about your health, and if you or anyone in your family has a bleeding disorder. Your provider will ask what medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines, and vitamin or herbal supplements. You may also need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may be done to show how well your blood clots.
  • Procedures such as endoscopy and angiography may be used to find the source of your bleeding, or to control it. An endoscope is a long, bendable tube with a light on the end of it. An angiogram is a picture of your arteries. You may be given a dye to help the blood vessels show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Surgery may be done in the same area to pinpoint where the blood is coming from.

How is postoperative bleeding treated?

  • A blood transfusion may be done to give you donated blood through an IV.
  • Blood components may be given during a transfusion to help stop your bleeding. Blood components are the parts of blood that help it to clot. Examples are clotting factors, platelets, and plasma.
  • Antifibrinolytic medicines may slow or stop your bleeding.
  • Surgery may be done to fix the blood vessel or area that is bleeding.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Blood soaks through the bandage covering your incision.
  • Your heart is beating faster than normal for you.
  • You are breathing faster than normal for you, or you feel short of breath.
  • You are urinating less than usual, or not at all.
  • Your skin feels cool and clammy.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You feel anxious or confused.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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