Bleeding or Hemorrhage: Classification

I. Understanding Hemorrhage

Definition of Hemorrhage or bleeding.

Derived from the Greek term “haima” (meaning blood) and “rhegnumai” (meaning to burst forth), it is a medical condition marked by an escape of blood from a ruptured blood vessel, internally or externally. It’s an emergency situation that requires immediate medical attention, as excessive blood loss can lead to shock, organ damage, or even death. We will discuss Bleeding or Hemorrhage: Classification.

There are varying degrees of hemorrhage, from minor bleeding after a small cut or abrasion to severe blood loss following surgery, trauma, or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. The Severity of a hemorrhage is determined by the amount and rate of blood loss and the Location of the bleeding.

Bleeding or Hemorrhage: Classification. Micrograph showing abundant hemosiderin-laden alveolar macrophages (dark brown), as seen in a pulmonary hemorrhage. H&E stain.
Micrograph showing abundant hemosiderin-laden alveolar macrophages (dark brown), as seen in a pulmonary hemorrhageH&E stain.

B. Classification of Hemorrhage

1. By Location:

  • Internal Hemorrhages

Internal hemorrhages occur when blood escapes from vessels within the body. These hemorrhages can happen within body tissues, cavities, or spaces and can be especially dangerous as they might go unnoticed until symptoms from blood loss or pressure on nearby structures become apparent.

Examples of internal hemorrhage include:

Intracranial Hemorrhage occurs when blood suddenly bursts into the spaces and tissues of the brain. Causes can be diverse, including traumatic brain injury, aneurysm rupture, or hypertension. Symptoms can vary from a sudden headache, vomiting, and loss of consciousness to more subtle signs like confusion, dizziness, or behavior changes. Treatment depends on the cause and may involve medications, surgery, or other interventions.

Intra-Abdominal Hemorrhage: This happens when there’s bleeding inside the abdominal cavity. It can result from trauma, aneurysms, surgery, or medical procedures complications. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, dizziness, shock, or even unconsciousness in severe cases. The diagnosis often involves imaging studies, and treatment includes involve surgery or embolization.

Hemothorax is when blood accumulates in the pleural space between the chest wall and the lungs. It often results from chest trauma, lung disease, or a ruptured blood vessel. It may cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, or hypotension. Treatment usually involves draining the blood using a chest tube and addressing the underlying cause.

  • External Hemorrhages

External hemorrhages occur when blood escapes from the body due to trauma to the skin or natural orifices. An example of an external hemorrhage is a simple cut on your finger, causing it to bleed.

Other instances can include:

Epistaxis (Nosebleeds): This is one of the most common types of bleeding and can happen due to dry air, nose picking, or trauma. Most nosebleeds can be handled at home with simple first-aid measures, such as pinching the nostrils and leaning forward.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding: This can present externally if it’s severe enough. Bright red blood or black, tarry stools can indicate a bleed in the gastrointestinal tract. The causes are numerous, including peptic ulcers, diverticulosis, and colorectal cancer. The treatment will depend on the cause, including medications, endoscopy, or surgery.

Skin Wounds: Cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds can all lead to external bleeding. Depending on the Severity, these may be managed at home with cleansing, bandaging, and rest, or they may need medical attention for stitches or tetanus prophylaxis.

Each of these examples presents a unique set of challenges and treatment methods. Accurate identification and prompt management of hemorrhages, both internal and external, are crucial in preventing complications and improving patient outcomes.

2. By Onset and Duration:

  • Acute Hemorrhages

Acute hemorrhages are sudden and often associated with a clear cause, such as trauma, surgery, or a blood vessel rupture. The symptoms may be immediate and severe, depending on the location and amount of bleeding.

For example, an acute gastrointestinal hemorrhage might present with sudden abdominal pain and shock, possibly with visible blood in vomit or stool. Or, in the case of an acute intracranial hemorrhage, there might be a sudden headache, loss of consciousness, or neurological deficits.

The treatment of acute hemorrhages involves immediate stabilization of the patient, including ensuring adequate blood flow to vital organs, stopping the bleeding, and replacing lost blood and fluids.

  • Chronic Hemorrhages

Chronic hemorrhages occur over a longer period, days to months, and the blood loss might be so slow that it goes unnoticed until it has caused anemia or other complications. The causes might be less apparent than in the case of acute hemorrhages and could include slow leaks from a peptic ulcer, low-grade trauma in athletes, or chronic disease that causes gradual blood loss, such as cancer or certain vascular diseases.

Symptoms might be subtle and nonspecific, including fatigue, weakness, pale skin, or gradual worsening of the underlying disease. Chronic hemorrhages are typically diagnosed by finding signs of anemia or blood loss in laboratory tests or imaging studies, along with a thorough patient history and physical examination.

Treating chronic hemorrhages involves addressing the underlying cause of the bleeding, replenishing the blood loss with transfusions if necessary, and addressing any complications that have arisen from the loss.

While acute and chronic hemorrhages present different challenges in their detection and management, both require a diligent approach to reduce their impact on patient health.

3. By Source:

  • Arterial Hemorrhages

Arterial hemorrhages occur when the source of bleeding is an artery. Since arteries carry blood away from the heart under high pressure, arterial bleeding tends to be heavy and spurting, and it can be more difficult to control than venous or capillary bleeding. The blood is usually bright red due to its high oxygen content.

Injury to a major artery can lead to life-threatening blood loss within minutes, so applying direct pressure to the bleeding site is important as seeking emergency medical attention immediately.

  • Venous Hemorrhages

Venous hemorrhages occur when a vein is the source of bleeding. Veins return blood to the heart under relatively low pressure, so venous bleeding tends to be slower and steadier than arterial bleeding. The blood is usually dark red due to its lower oxygen content.

While venous bleeding is usually less immediately dangerous than arterial bleeding, it can still lead to significant blood loss over time. As with arterial bleeding, direct pressure can help control venous bleeding until medical help is available.

  • Capillary Hemorrhages

Capillary hemorrhages happen when the tiny vessels that connect arteries and veins, known as capillaries, are the source of bleeding. Capillary bleeding is usually slow and oozing in nature. It is the most common type of bleeding and is seen in minor cuts and scrapes.

Although capillary bleeding usually stops on its own or with minor first aid, it can be significant in some situations, such as widespread damage to the skin or in people with bleeding disorders.

All three types of bleeding – arterial, venous, and capillary – require a different approach for control and treatment, underscoring the importance of identifying the source of bleeding.

4. By Severity:

  • Minor Hemorrhage

Minor hemorrhages typically involve superficial blood vessels, such as those found in the skin or mucous membranes. Examples include nosebleeds, minor cuts, and scrapes, or minimal bleeding after a dental procedure. While these can often be managed at home with simple first-aid measures, they may occasionally require medical intervention, especially in individuals with coagulation disorders or those on anticoagulant medications.

  • Moderate Hemorrhage

Moderate hemorrhages involve more significant blood loss that, while not immediately life-threatening, could become serious if not addressed. This could include a deep cut that won’t stop bleeding, a nosebleed that lasts for over 20 minutes, or bleeding that occurs after a surgical procedure. These situations usually require medical attention to control the bleeding and may necessitate interventions such as sutures, packing, or cauterization.

  • Severe Hemorrhage

Severe hemorrhages involve substantial blood loss that could be life-threatening. This category includes situations such as a major injury or trauma with uncontrolled bleeding, gastrointestinal hemorrhage with rapid blood loss, or a major blood vessel rupture. Severe hemorrhages require immediate medical attention, and treatment may involve blood and fluid resuscitation, emergency surgery, or other measures to control bleeding and support vital organ function.

In all cases, understanding the Severity of the hemorrhage is crucial for providing the right care and optimizing patient outcomes.

5. By Mechanism:

  • Traumatic Hemorrhage

Traumatic hemorrhages are caused by physical injury or damage to the body. This could be due to accidents, falls, sports injuries, or violence. The nature and extent of the bleeding depend on the Severity and Location of the injury.

For instance, a deep cut with a sharp object might cause a severe arterial bleed, while a blunt force injury might cause internal bleeding. Traumatic hemorrhages require immediate medical attention, and treatment will involve stabilizing the patient, controlling the bleeding, and treating the underlying injury.

  • Non-Traumatic Hemorrhage

Non-traumatic hemorrhages are not caused by physical injury. Instead, they can occur as a result of a variety of medical conditions or procedures. Examples include bleeding ulcers, hemorrhagic stroke, or hemorrhage during or after surgery.

Non-traumatic hemorrhages can be just as serious as traumatic ones and require prompt medical attention. The approach to treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the bleeding.

  • Spontaneous Hemorrhage

Spontaneous hemorrhages occur without a clear cause or triggering event. They might be associated with diseases that affect the blood vessels or the body’s ability to form clots, such as hemophilia, liver disease, or certain types of cancer.

For example, a spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage can occur due to high blood pressure or a cerebral aneurysm. Similarly, spontaneous bleeding into the joints or muscles can occur in individuals with severe hemophilia.

Understanding the mechanism of hemorrhage is important, as it provides clues about the underlying cause and helps guide the approach to treatment.

By site:

1. Intracranial Hemorrhage

Intracranial hemorrhages occur when blood vessels inside the skull rupture and bleed. These are severe medical emergencies due to the damage caused by the bleeding and increased pressure within the skull. Intracranial hemorrhages can be categorized into subtypes, such as epidural, subdural, subarachnoid, and intracerebral, based on their location within the brain. Common causes include trauma, aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, and hypertension.

2. Intraocular Hemorrhage

Intraocular hemorrhages are bleeds that occur within the eye. They can occur within different parts of the eye, such as the vitreous humor (vitreous hemorrhage), the anterior or posterior chambers (hyphema or hemophthalmos), or the retina (retinal hemorrhage). These can occur due to trauma, vascular diseases like diabetes, or high blood pressure.

3. Pulmonary Hemorrhage

Pulmonary hemorrhages refer to bleeding into the lung tissue or the bronchial tubes. This can occur due to injuries, lung diseases like tuberculosis, or conditions that affect the blood vessels, like vasculitis. It can present with symptoms like coughing up blood, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

4. Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage

Gastrointestinal (GI) hemorrhages can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, from the esophagus to the rectum. Depending on the Location and rate of bleeding, symptoms can range from vomiting blood, passing black, tarry stools (melena), or passing fresh blood through the rectum (hematochezia). Causes include peptic ulcers, gastritis, esophageal varices, diverticulosis, colorectal cancer, and hemorrhoids.

5. Musculoskeletal Hemorrhage

Musculoskeletal hemorrhages include bleeding into the muscles, joints, or bones. Hemarthrosis refers to bleeding into a joint space, commonly seen in hemophilia patients. Hematomas, collections of blood outside of the blood vessels, can form within muscle tissues after an injury or surgery. Bleeding into the bone marrow can occur after a fracture or in conditions like leukemia.

6. Genitourinary Hemorrhage

Genitourinary hemorrhages occur within the reproductive or urinary systems. This could involve conditions like hematuria (blood in urine), which urinary tract infections, kidney stones, or bladder cancer can cause. In females, abnormal uterine bleeding can occur due to a variety of conditions, including fibroids, hormonal imbalances, or cancers.

7. Cutaneous Hemorrhage

Cutaneous hemorrhages, or bleeding into the skin, can occur due to injury and can be signs of underlying disorders. Petechiae are small, pinpoint hemorrhages that can be signs of platelet disorders. Ecchymosis or bruising is bleeding into the skin, often caused by trauma. Purpura refers to larger areas of bleeding under the skin, which can occur in certain infections or vasculitis.

8. Nasal Hemorrhage (Epistaxis)

Nasal hemorrhages, also known as epistaxis, occur when blood vessels in the nose rupture. Causes can range from dry air and nose-picking to injuries and high blood pressure. In most cases, pes of bleeds can be managed with first-aid aid measures, but more severe cases may require medical intervention.

9. Oral Hemorrhage

Oral hemorrhages refer to bleeding occurring within the mouth. They can be caused by dental procedures, gum disease, trauma, or other conditions affecting the mouth. Depending on the source and Severity, these hemorrhages may require dental or medical attention.

10. Intraperitoneal Hemorrhage

Intraperitoneal hemorrhages occur within the abdominal cavity, which houses many vital organs. This type of bleeding can be caused by trauma, an ectopic pregnancy, ruptured ovarian cysts in women, and diseases affecting the liver or spleen. These are medical emergencies that often require surgery.

11. Retroperitoneal Hemorrhage

Retroperitoneal hemorrhages occur in the space behind the abdominal cavity. This type of bleeding can occur due to injuries or conditions affecting the kidneys, pancreas, or aorta. Like intraperitoneal hemorrhages, these are medical emergencies that often require immediate attention.

12. Subcutaneous Hemorrhage

Subcutaneous hemorrhages occur just beneath the skin. This is typically what we think of when we refer to bruising. Causes can range from minor fall falls to more severe conditions like blood clotting disorders or certain types of cancer.

13. Intra-articular Hemorrhage

This involves bleeding into a joint space and can cause pain, swelling, and limited movement. This type of bleeding is common in hemophilia patients and can also occur due to trauma or joint surgery.

14. Intramuscular Hemorrhage

Intramuscular hemorrhages occur within the muscle tissue, often due to injury or invasive procedures like injections. They can cause swelling, pain, and a reduction in the functionality of the affected muscle.

15. Intraventricular Hemorrhage

This type of hemorrhage refers to bleeding into the brain’s ventricles, often due to a head injury or aneurysm rupture. Intraventricular hemorrhages are particularly dangerous due to the potential for increased intracranial pressure and damage to brain tissue.

16. Intrapleural Hemorrhage

Intrapleural hemorrhage occurs when blood collects in the space between the chest wall and the lung. This can result from chest trauma, lung disease, or invasive procedures and can cause symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and low blood pressure.

17. Intrapericardial Hemorrhage

Intrapericardial hemorrhages occur when blood accumulates in the pericardial sac surrounding the heart. This can result from chest trauma, pericardial rupture, or after cardiac surgery and can lead to a life-threatening condition known as cardiac tamponade.

18. Subgaleal Hemorrhage

Subgaleal hemorrhages involve bleeding into the potential space between the scalp’s dense connective tissue and the skull’s periosteum. They are most commonly associated with birth trauma in newborns but can also occur due to head injuries.

19. Peritoneal Hemorrhage

This type of bleeding occurs in the peritoneal cavity, the area within the abdomen that contains organs like the stomach, liver, and intestines. Causes include abdominal trauma, rupture of an organ, or complications from surgery.

20. Pericardial Hemorrhage

A pericardial hemorrhage involves bleeding into the pericardial space surrounding the heart. It can occur due to a penetrating chest injury, a ruptured aorta, or a complication following heart surgery. It may lead to cardiac tamponade, a life-threatening condition.

21. Intrarenal Hemorrhage

This type of bleeding occurs within the kidney. Causes may include trauma, kidney diseases, or invasive procedures like a kidney biopsy. Symptoms can include blood in the urine (hematuria) and flank pain.

22. Ovarian Hemorrhage

Ovarian hemorrhages refer to bleeding within an ovary. This can occur naturally as part of the ovulatory process or due to conditions such as an ovarian cyst rupture or ectopic pregnancy. Symptoms may include pelvic pain and irregular menstrual cycles.

23. Adrenal Hemorrhage

Adrenal hemorrhages involve bleeding into one or both adrenal glh small glands above the kidneys. Causes can include trauma, an adrenal tumor the s, or the use of blood-thinning medication. Depending on the Severity, it can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, low blood pressure, and fever.

24. Perihepatic Hemorrhage

Perihepatic hemorrhage refers to bleeding around the liver. This can occur due to liver injury, surgery, or liver diseases like cirrhosis. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, low blood pressure, and signs of internal bleeding.

25. Intramural Hemorrhage

Intramural hemorrhages refer to bleeding within the walls of a hollow organ, such as the intestines or stomach. Causes can include trauma, certain diseases, or invasive procedures like surgery. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the affected organ and the Severity of the bleeding.

26. Intrauterine Hemorrhage

Intrauterine hemorrhages involve bleeding within the uterus during pregnancy, often due to conditions like placenta previa or abruptio placentae. This can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby.

27. Intravesicular Hemorrhage

This refers to bleeding within the bladder, infections, trauma, or cancer that can cause cancer. This can lead to the presence of blood in the urine.

28. Intraosseous Hemorrhage

This type of bleeding occurs within the bone and is often associated with fractures or bone marrow procedures. It can cause pain in swelling and potentially compromise bone health.


Read my post – Unveiling The Truth: Debunking Common Myths About Lymphoma

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2023). Intracerebral hemorrhage: Symptoms and causes. Retrieved from
  2. Medline Plus. (2023). Spinal cord trauma. Retrieved from
  3. CDC. (2023). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from
  4. The New England Journal of Medicine. (2023). Hemorrhage Research. Retrieved from
  5. World Health Organization. (2023). Global Health Observatory Data. Retrieved from

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Tanzir Islam Britto

Hello, I'm Dr. Tanzir Islam Britto. As a dedicated physician, I've embarked on my medical journey at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical College (BSMMC), previously known as Faridpur Medical College, where I pursued my Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). I completed my degree at Shahabuddin Medical College (SMC). Alongside my medical career, I am an amateur writer and an active social media advocate, where I share insights into health, wellness, and more.

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