Radiology Teaching Files > Case 35691554

previously visited RECTUS MUSCLE HEMATOMA
Contributed by: dalia yosif, Radiologist, Kasr Aini hospital, Egypt.
Patient: 47 year old female
History: 47 year old female: ,presented to ER complaining of acute abdominal pain,the patient had ahistory of recent chest infction which had been associated with severe cough followed by this abdominal pain,by examination positive cullen sign(periumbilical ecchymosis) was noted,ultrasound examination revealed enlarged left rectus abdominus muscle with areas of low echogenicity within.

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CT exam of the abdomen& pelvis without contrast revealed:

Thickened&enlarged left rectus muscle (at its lower part)with areas of low attenuation within

Diagnosis: Rectus muscle hematoma

Rectus sheath hematoma (RSH) is an uncommon and often clinically misdiagnosed cause of abdominal pain. It is the result of bleeding into the rectus sheath from damage to the superior or inferior epigastric arteries or their branches or from a direct tear of the rectus muscle,


  • Anticoagulation: Rectus sheath hematoma is a well-recognized complication of anticoagulant therapy
  • Coughing: Rectus sheath hematoma can occur after bouts of severe coughing, explaining its association with asthma, tuberculosis, influenza, pertussis, and other respiratory infections.
  • Pregnancy: Rectus sheath hematoma is associated with pregnancy in the gravid state, during labor, and in the early postpartum period.
  • Previous abdominal surgery: Abdominal operations predispose to rectus sheath hematoma because surgical scars redirect the shearing forces on muscle contraction, placing more stress on the epigastric vessels.
  • Recent abdominal surgery: Excessive retraction or inadequate hemostasis can cause rectus sheath hematoma that may become evident up to 4 weeks after the procedure.
  • External trauma: The nature of the trauma can be trivial. Tight contraction of the recti in anticipation of a blow predisposes. to rectus sheath hematoma formation
  • Vigorous uncoordinated rectus muscle contraction: Rectus sheath hematoma has been observed in a healthy man leaping over a ditch and in a woman rising from a chair to adjust a curtain rod. In a similar manner, sports activities, such as golf, tennis, skiing, and weightlifting, have caused rectus sheath hematoma. Activities with significant Valsalva effort, such as coughing, sneezing, straining from constipation, urination, and sexual intercourse, have been implicated in rectus sheath hematoma

Imaging Studies:

Ultrasonography: Ultrasonography can be used as a first-line diagnostic test for rectus sheath hematoma, or it can be used to monitor the evolution of a known hematoma. Ultrasonography provides rapid accurate information about the size, the location, and the physical characteristics of the mass,

Expected findings: Rectus sheath hematomas are described as spindle shaped on sagittal sections and as ovoid on coronal sections. Usually, the mass is sonolucent, although it may also be heterogenous, depending on the combined presence of clot and fresh blood

CT:Expected findings: Characteristic findings of acute rectus sheath hematoma on CT include a hyperdense mass posterior to the rectus abdominis muscle with ipsilateral anterolateral muscular enlargement. Chronic rectus sheath hematoma may be isodense or hypodense relative to the surrounding muscle. Above the arcuate line, rectus sheath hematomas have a spindle shape, while those below the arcuate line are typically spherical

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Additional Details:

Case Number: 35691554Last Updated: 01-24-2010
Anatomy: Gastrointestinal (GI)   Pathology: Trauma
Modality: CT, GIAccess Level: Readable by all users

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