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1. a mass of salivary matter ejected from the mouth
2. saliva ejected from the mouth mixed with mucus or pus exuded from the respiratory passages, as in bronchitis or bronchiectasis



pathological secretions from the respiratory tract that are discharged with a cough; they are the product of the overactivity of the mucous glands. Sputum often contains epithelial cells, bits of lung tissue, blood, and pus. The amount of sputum, as well as its appearance, is important in the diagnosis of disease.

Sputum may be mucous, purulent, serous, bloody, or mixed. Rusty sputum (sputum mixed with and colored by blood) is a sign of lobar pneumonia. Abundant purulent sputum is characteristic of a ruptured abscess in the lungs. Gray, dirty, malodorous sputum appears when there is putrefactive decomposition of lung tissue.

Sputum may be examined in a laboratory with the aid of a microscope and also by bacteriological and cytological analyses. Laboratory examination makes it possible to detect pathogenic microorganisms (including the causative agent of tuberculosis), cells of malignant tumors, and certain other elements that are characteristic of certain diseases, and to determine the sensitivity of bacterial flora to antibiotics.


Material discharged from the surface of the respiratory passages, mouth, or throat; may contain saliva, mucus, pus, microorganisms, blood, or inhaled particulate matter in any combination.
References in periodicals archive ?
We defined a probable pneumonic plague case as an acute-onset respiratory illness with bloody sputum during December 2004 in Kango Subcounty, Uganda.
We defined a probable pneumonic plague case as respiratory illness of acute onset with cough producing grossly bloody sputum during December 2004 in Kango Subcounty, Nebbi District, Uganda.
He expectorated bloody sputum after running and on a few other occasions.
Past clinical history showed an evaluation of productive cough in 1996, with bloody sputum, night sweats, and intermittent fever; she underwent bronchoscopy with pathologic examination, which showed vascular congestion and focal intra-alveolar edema, but no specific pathogen was identified.