Haemarthrosis is bleeding into a joint (haem' means blood and 'arthrosis' means joint).

swollen knee and haemarthrosis

The joint can rapidly become hot and tense.



What causes an haemarthrosis?

Haemarthrosis may result from damage to blood vessels from injury or surgery, or spontaneously in bleeding disorders such as haemophilia.

Back to top


How can a haemarthrosis swell so much?

Haemarthrosis can result in acute and painful knee swelling. It may seem impossible that the joint can swell so much, but the blood is contained by the capsule of the knee, and it is really the capsule that swells, becoming inflated like a balloon.

knee capsule swollen with haemarthrosis


Illustration depicting the capsule swollen and distended. It would normally be deflated like a popped balloon.

haemarthrosis of the knee


X-ray of young person with haemarthrosis - © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Back to top


How is haemarthrosis managed?

Larger amounts of blood after injury or surgery are generally aspirated with a needle and syringe. Aspiration can offer rapid relief of discomfort. If the knee swells up again straight after the aspiration, one should suspect a bleeding disorder or a blood vessel that needs tying off.

Back to top


What happens if a haemarthrosis is not aspirated?

A small haemarthrosis may resolve on its own without aspiration. A larger bleed may leave residual blood in the joint, which can cause inflammation and internal scarring (arthrofibrosis).

Back to top



There is currently no content classified with this term.


Dr Sheila Strover (Editor)
BSc (Hons), MB BCh, MBA

See biography...

See also -

from the Experts -