Date: 14 Nov 2013

Rectus sheath hematoma in a single secondary care institution: a retrospective study

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Rectus sheath hematoma (RSH) represents an unusual abdominal wall pathology, frequently confounded as acute abdomen, with high mortality rates reported especially among elderly patients. The purpose of this retrospective study was to delineate characteristics of the patients diagnosed with RSH at the First Surgery Department of the Saint George General Hospital of Chania, Greece over a 5-year period.


Seven patients with a median age of 62 years (range 51–85) were included in the study. Clinical features, demographics, management and outcome are summarized.


The most common predisposing risk factor was anticoagulation. Acute onset abdominal pain and painful palpable abdominal mass, located more often on the right lower abdominal quadrant, were the most frequent initial symptoms. Management was mostly conservative [6 (85.7 %)] with disruption of anticoagulation, analgesia and bed rest. Blood transfusion was performed in hemodynamic compromised patients [2 (28.5 %)]. One patient was not appropriately diagnosed. On admission, the patient presented severe hemodynamic compromise and for this reason underwent emergency explorative laparotomy. The majority of the patients [6 (85.7 %)] experienced an uncomplicated clinical recovery and were discharged home after a mean hospital stay of 10 days (range 7–12).


Surgeons as well as primary care physicians have to be aware of the clinical diagnostic tests and include the condition in the differential diagnosis of acute onset abdominal pain. Prompt recognition will prevent unnecessary surgical intervention and potential complications.