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Obstructive uropathy secondary to rectus sheath hematoma.


Rectus sheath hematoma is a collection of blood within the abdominal wall musculature or fascia. RSH frequently presents with acute abdomen in the setting of anticoagulation or trauma, but various presentations have been reported. Symptoms can range from slight abdominal pain to hypovolemic shock. Although uncommon, RSH is important to consider in the differential for acute abdomen as a patient may clinically deteriorate and become hemodynamically unstable if bleeding persists. We report a case of a rapidly expanding RSH causing obstructive anuria and hydronephrosis in addition to a review of literature on this rare presentation of RSH.

Case Report

An obese 58-year-old woman on day ten of Coumadin therapy for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolus (PE) presented with an acute-onset of severe lower abdominal pain, nausea, and urge to void hours after a bout of coughing. Prior to transfer, exam at an outside hospital (OSH) demonstrated elevated blood pressure, tachycardia, diffuse abdominal tenderness, distension, and negative for a palpable mass. Laboratory evaluation showed an International Normalized ratio (INR) of 3.3, low hematocrit, and a blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine (Cr) of 25 and 2.1, respectively. She had minimal urine output with moderate blood and protein. CT scan with contrast of the abdomen and pelvis revealed a Grade 3 left rectus muscle hematoma contiguous into the pelvis, displacing the bladder superiorly and posteriorly to the right.

On hospital day 2, the patient abruptly stopped producing urine per her Foley catheter. Repeat CT scan showed an enlarging RSH compressing the urinary bladder and left ureter as well as increased hydronephrosis and concern for intravesicular hematoma (Fig 1a-1c). Bladder irrigation removed minimal blood and urine mix. In view of persistent anuria and compressive hematoma, INR was optimized for laparotomy, yielding 1300 mL of clot from preperitoneal space and leading to subsequent improvement of symptoms. Immediately after evacuation, roughly 200 mL of concentrated urine was put out. Urine output returned to normal following surgery and foley catheter was removed with normal voiding pattern. Follow up images prior to discharge revealed a resolved hydronephrosis on renal ultrasound.


RSH is rare and does not typically require intervention, however, it remains an important diagnosis in patients with acute abdomen and recent history of anticoagulation, pregnancy, trauma, or severe coughing (1,2). An expanding RSH can lead to hemodynamic instability or compression of surrounding tissues and significant consequences as in the case reported here. In this patient, sudden expansion was significant enough to cause ureteral obstruction and hydronephrosis.

Similar reports of urinary complications with RSH are few. A thorough literature search of RSH with oliguria, anuria, or hydronephrosis yielded only five cases from 1961 and 2011. (3-7) Excluded from our discussion are the report written in French and cases of retroperitoneal hematomas causing urine obstruction that did not describe the rectus sheath as the source of bleed. Of the four remaining reports three of the patients had been anticoagulated. These three patients were all female and ranged in ages between 54 to 59-years-old. All patients, including our case, presented with abdominal pain and tenderness, however the case we report is unique in that this patient did not present with a palpable mass on physical exam. Patients either had an ultrasound, CT scan or other film series to aid in diagnosis. RSH caused obstructive oliguria and bilateral hydronephrosis in these patients. The RSH in our case resulted in anuria and unilateral hydronephrosis. Two of the reported cases were managed conservatively while the other two required surgical intervention.

A RSH might be expected to expand inferiorly through fascial planes to the pubic symphysis or to the prevesicular space, especially if below the arcuate line and between the transversalis fascia and peritoneal planes. If large enough, a RSH can lead to compression of ureters and the bladder with the consequence of urinary obstruction and hydronephrosis. Grading of RSH has previously been described by Berna et al. (8)

The rapid progression to obstructive anuria and hydronephrosis in the cases discussed here demonstrates the importance of recognizing RSH and its severity and to manage it appropriately. Fitzgerald et al suggest that RSH may be increasingly more common with an aging population and growing number of people on anticoagulation therapy. Despite its infrequency, RSH is important to consider in the differential for acute abdomen as a patient may clinically deteriorate from complications of an expanding hematoma that may mimic several conditions and confound the diagnosis. Though few cases have been reported, it appears that elderly females with previous pregnancies, poor abdominal tone, obesity and those recently started on anticoagulation have a greater likelihood of developing type three RSH leading to medical attention.


Rectus sheath hematoma though routinely benign, may present with severe complications such as hemorrhagic shock or obstructive anuria in occasional cases. Recognition of such complications with sudden deterioration in clinical presentation is critical to identify more commonly in type III hematoma. Elderly postmenopausal women with previous pregnancy who have been initiated on anticoagulation therapy are at increased risk of such a complication.


(1.) Cherry WB, Mueller PS: Rectus sheath hematoma: review of 126 cases at a single institution. Medicine. 2006;85(2)105-110.

(2.) Berna JD, Zuazu I, Madrigal M, Garcia-Medina V, et al: Conservative treatment of large rectus sheath hematoma in patients undergoing anticoagulant therapy. Abdom Imaging. 2000;25(3):230-234.

(3.) Kaden WS, Friedman EA: Obstructive uropathy complicating anticoagulant therapy. N Engl J Med. 1961;265:283.

(4.) Reig RC, Vila BJ, Ahmad WA, et al: Infrequent cause of bilateral obstructive uropathy. Actas Urol Esp. 1992;16(5)420-421.

(5.) Toyonaga J, Tsuruya K, Masutani K, et al: Hemorrhagic shock and obstructive uropathy due to a large rectus sheath hematoma in a patient on anticoagulant therapy. Intern Med. 2009;48()2119-2122.

(6.) Wakeman R, Rainsbury RM. An unusual cause of bilateral ureteric obstruction. Br J Surg. 1986;73(24)623.

(7.) Zalar JA, McDonald JH. Ureteral obstruction and vesicle compression secondary to hematoma of the rectus abdominis muscle. J Urol. 1969;102(1)47-48.

(8.) Berna JD, Garcia-Medina V, Guirao J, Garcia-Medina J. Rectus sheath hematoma: diagnostic classification by CT. Abdom Imaging. 1996;21(1):62-4.

Abbreviations: RSH--Rectus sheath hematoma, DVT--Deep vein thrombosis, PE--Pulmonary embolus, OSH--Outside hospital, INR--International normalized ratio, BUN--Blood urea nitrogen, Cr--Creatinine, CT--Computed tomography

Pankaj P. Dangle, MD

Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Urology

Mitesh B. Patel, MS III

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Marcos Teran, MS, MS III

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Micheal J. Chehval, MD

Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Urology

Corresponding Author: Pankaj P. Dangle MD, Mch, 3517 South Hoyne Ave Unit 6, Chicago Il 60609
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Title Annotation:Scientific Article
Author:Dangle, Pankaj P.; Patel, Mitesh B.; Teran, Marcos; Chehval, Micheal J.
Publication:West Virginia Medical Journal
Article Type:Case study
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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