Overview of Hemarthrosis

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Hemarthrosis is bleeding in a joint caused by conditions such as hemophilia, physical trauma, or other factors. It is often suspected when a person experiences pain, swelling, and joint stiffness, and it may take weeks or months to resolve. Treatment is essential since lengthy exposure to blood can damage the cartilage of your joints.

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Hemarthrosis can appear after a joint injury, or it may develop spontaneously if you are prone to bleeding.

Common causes of hemarthrosis include:

  • Traumas, such as a major joint injury, strain, or tear, can cause rapid bleeding into one or more of your joints.
  • Bleeding disorders, in which the blood does not clot properly, can cause bleeding into a joint. While hemophilia is the most common bleeding disorder, there are several bleeding disorders that can make you prone to excessive bleeding as well.
  • Blood thinners such as aspirin, or anticoagulants such as warfarin, may make you more susceptible to bleeding in any part of your body, including your joints. You can bleed spontaneously, but typically, bleeding occurs as a result of mild to moderate trauma.
  • Osteoarthritis, often associated with a degenerative flap tear in the meniscus (a protective covering of your joint), can result in bleeding into a joint.
  • Surgery can sometimes lead to complications such as bleeding into a joint.
  • Neoplasms (cancer) may disrupt the blood vessels in a joint. Additionally, a tumor may develop its own blood supply, which can include fragile blood vessels that can easily tear or bleed, resulting in hemarthrosis.


Signs and symptoms of hemarthrosis can range from mild to severe and are generally worse if there is a large amount of bleeding. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Stiffness
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth in the joint

While it is wise to bring any such symptoms to your healthcare provider's attention, it is especially so if you are particularly at risk for this condition.


If it progresses, hemarthrosis can inflame and thin cartilage, causing pain, weakness, degenerative arthritis, or additional bleeding into the joint. In severe or prolonged cases, the condition can create permanent changes in joint structure and function.


Your healthcare provider can usually identify the condition by visually examining your joints. When you have pain and ​swelling in a single joint (monoarticular), hemarthrosis is considered a possible cause. Imaging studies may also be helpful in identifying blood in and around your joint.

Joint aspiration (arthrocentesis) can offer a definitive diagnosis. Your healthcare provider will insert a needle into your joint, collecting a sample of the joint fluid. The fluid will first be analyzed visually by your practitioner and may also be sent to the laboratory for full analysis.

The joint fluid that is associated with hemarthrosis is typically reddish, pinkish, or brownish. Other characteristics of the joint fluid may also help identify the underlying cause of your hemarthrosis.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for hemarthrosis depends on the cause and may include simple at-home remedies, medication for the relief of pain and swelling, removal of the blood, and/or medication to prevent bleeding.

Treatment options your healthcare provider may suggest include:

  • Treatment with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is often used for the management of pain and swelling.
  • Avoiding blood thinners would help you heal faster. Many over-the-counter pain medications, such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen), are also blood thinners and can exacerbate bleeding. Do not take any pills for pain relief unless recommended or prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • For large bleeds, joint aspiration may be done within two days of the bleed to prevent damage that the blood can cause in the joint.
  • Surgeries such as synovectomy (removal of the joint lining), meniscectomy, and osteotomy have been used for the treatment of hemarthrosis.
  • Tailored physical therapy (PT), designed to use your joints while avoiding overuse or damaging motions, can help you recover and prevent deformities. PT may be the only therapeutic intervention you need, or it may accompany joint aspiration or surgery. Electrical therapy with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been used for pain control with limited success.

As a preventive measure, blood-clotting medication (prophylactic blood clotting factors) may be recommended if you are at risk of developing hemarthrosis due to hemophilia. In general, blood-clotting medications can be dangerous, potentially inducing blood clots that can cause strokes or heart attacks. These drugs can prevent bleeding, but not remove blood.

You will only receive blood-clotting medications if you have a bleeding disorder. Your healthcare provider will closely monitor you for complications if you receive this treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Hemarthrosis is not a common condition, but it's worth knowing about the potential complications. Mild to moderate joint bleeding should resolve with time. Treatment can alleviate the pain, discomfort, and swelling associated with the condition, and can help prevent long-term complications and joint damage.

If you have swelling of one or more joints in your body, you should see your healthcare provider. If you experience rapid or severe swelling, you should seek prompt medical attention.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Villa-Forte A. Joint pain: single joint. Merck Manual Consumer Version.

  2. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Bleeding disorders.

  3. Lobet S, Hermans C, Lambert C. Optimal management of hemophilic arthropathy and hematomas. J Blood Med. 2014;5:207–218. doi:10.2147/JBM.S50644

Additional Reading

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."