Hematoma vs. Blot Clot: What's the Difference?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Hematoma Vs Blood Clot

Understanding the difference between a hematoma and a blood clot is not just a matter of curiosity but a crucial aspect of health literacy. While both are related to blood, these conditions have distinct causes, characteristics, and potential health implications. Awareness of these nuances empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being and to seek prompt and appropriate medical attention when faced with concerning symptoms.

Hematoma results from blood collecting outside a vessel after an injury and occurs under the skin or in an injured organ. This can be caused by trauma, surgery, or certain medical conditions. Hematomas may sometimes form a lump that can be felt on top of the skin. It's important to note that some hematomas, especially internal ones, may be difficult to recognize.

Per eMedicine Health, a contusion, also known as a bruise, is a type of hematoma. In the case of head injuries, it's essential to seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms develop. If a hematoma is especially painful or symptoms are severe, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly.

In contrast, a blood clot is a semi-solid mass inside a vessel formed to stop bleeding. It can form due to immobility, certain medications, or underlying health conditions. A blood clot can pose a severe and immediate threat to health. It can travel through the bloodstream and block critical arteries or veins. This can lead to severe complications such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), heart attack, or stroke.

The potential repercussions of both blood clots and severe hematoma highlight the necessity of distinguishing between the two conditions and seeking immediate medical attention if needed.

Distinguishing Between Hematoma and Blood Clot

Both conditions involve blood-related issues and can cause skin discoloration, yet they differ significantly in their formation and potential health implications. Recognizing these differences can be a matter of life and death.

What is a Hematoma?

A hematoma occurs when blood collects under the skin or in an organ due to an injury to the blood vessels. It can present as a dark blue, purple, or black patch and may cause swelling and other skin discoloration. Hematomas can be diagnosed by a physical exam or medical imaging such as MRI and CT scans.

Mild or superficial hematomas can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, while more serious hematomas may require further medical attention.

Per MedicineNet, a hematoma in an internal organ may not be visible, yet it can seriously affect an organ and may impair function. For example, a hematoma in the brain can cause paralysis, or a hematoma in the kidney may cause decreased kidney function.

Hematoma Symptoms

  • Skin Discoloration: Hematomas cause skin discoloration, such as a dark blue, purple, or black patch.
  • Swelling: The affected area may show swelling.
  • Tenderness and Pain: Hematomas can be tender and painful to the touch.
  • Localized Pain: They can cause localized pain in the affected area.
  • Specific Symptoms Based on Location: Different types of hematomas, such as subdural, epidural, subungual, or muscular hematomas, may present specific symptoms based on their location and severity. For example:
    • Subdural hematoma: headache, neurologic problems, confusion, seizures
    • Epidural hematoma: back pain, weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control
    • Subungual hematoma: nail pain, nail weakness, nail loss, disfiguring nail
    • Splenic, hepatic, or peritoneal hematoma: abdominal pain, flank pain
    • Intracranial hematoma: headache that worsens, vomiting, drowsiness, progressive loss of consciousness, dizziness, confusion, unequal pupil size

What is a Blood Clot?

On the other hand, a blood clot is the body's natural response to stop bleeding inside a blood vessel. The binding of platelets and fibrin forms it. Blood clots typically occur inside larger blood vessels, such as arteries or veins, and can lead to serious health problems such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE).

Unlike hematomas, blood clots may not always produce visible symptoms but can cause swelling and pain. Blood clots can be diagnosed using duplex ultrasonography and CT scans.

Blood Clot Symptoms

  • Leg Swelling and Pain: Blood clots, particularly deep vein thrombosis (DVT), often cause leg swelling and pain, usually starting in the calf.
  • Skin Color Changes: The skin over the clot may change color, appearing red or purple.
  • Warmth and Redness: The affected area may feel warm and appear red.
  • Respiratory Symptoms: In some cases, blood clots can lead to sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood.
  • Specific Risk Factors: Blood clots may be associated with specific risk factors such as age, obesity, prolonged sitting, recent surgery, or underlying health conditions like cancer, heart failure, or high blood pressure.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, while varicose veins primarily affect superficial veins near the skin's surface, severe varicose veins increase the risk of blood clots in the deep veins. Prompt medical attention is crucial for treating blood clots, as they can lead to severe complications. Don't hesitate to contact Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) at 877-SCAN-DVT (866-969-3470) for same-day evaluation and appropriate management.

What are the Long-Term Implications of Hematoma and Blood Clots?

The long-term effects of hematomas and blood clots can vary based on their location in the body, severity, and individual health factors. Here are some insights into the potential long-term effects:


  • Resolution: Many hematomas resolve on their own over time as the blood clot dissolves and gets absorbed into the surrounding tissues, leading to bruising or discoloration.
  • Tissue Firmness: Hematomas may make the surrounding tissues firm or hard, creating a lump.
  • Treatment and Recovery: Mild or superficial hematomas can be managed with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E). More serious hematomas may require medical attention and monitoring.
  • Specific Types: Certain types of hematomas, such as cranial hematomas caused by head injuries, can be life-threatening and may have long-term neurological implications.

Blood Clots

  • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome: After a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), some individuals may develop post-thrombotic syndrome, characterized by chronic leg pain, swelling, and skin changes.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: If a blood clot dislodges and travels to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be life-threatening and may lead to long-term respiratory complications.
  • Chronic Complications: In some cases, individuals may experience chronic complications related to the damage caused by the blood clot to the affected blood vessel or organ.

It's important to note that hematomas and blood clots can have varying long-term effects, and a healthcare professional should evaluate the specific implications based on the individual's condition and medical history.

What are the Treatment Options for Hematomas and Blood Clots?

The treatment options for hematomas and blood clots vary based on the specific condition and severity. Here are the general treatment approaches for each:


  • Conservative Management: Many hematomas resolve on their own and can be managed conservatively. This may involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E) to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Surgical Drainage: In some cases, surgical drainage may be necessary when a hematoma is large or causing significant symptoms. This is typically based on the location and symptoms of the hematoma.
  • Medication: Pain management with acetaminophen may be recommended, but medications that interfere with normal blood clotting, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, should be avoided as they can increase the risk of bleeding.

Blood Clots

  • Anticoagulant Medications: Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, are commonly used to treat and prevent blood clots. These medications help prevent the clot from growing and reduce the risk of new clots forming.
  • Thrombolytic Therapy: In certain situations, such as severe or life-threatening blood clots, thrombolytic therapy may dissolve the clot quickly.
  • Vena Cava Filter: For individuals who cannot take anticoagulants or have recurrent blood clots, a vena cava filter may be inserted into the body's largest vein (the vena cava) to prevent clots from traveling to the lungs.

What Should I Do If I Suspect a Blood Clot or Hematoma?

While both hematoma and blood clots involve the accumulation of blood, they differ in their formation, location, and potential health implications. Being mindful of possible dangers, exploring available treatments, and taking preventive steps are vital in safeguarding against blood clots. Seeking prompt guidance from a healthcare provider is essential for successful clot management.

You may have a blood clot with undiagnosed leg pain, swelling, or skin discoloration. Seek immediate help. Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) offers a same-day DVT-rule-out service. If needed, CVR can provide anticoagulation treatment, education, and follow-up. Our hotline is 877-SCAN-DVT (866-969-3470).

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