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Thrombosed External Hemorrhoid Excision

  • Author: Brett Wallace Lorber, MD, MPH, FACEP; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
Updated: Oct 19, 2015


External hemorrhoids (piles) occur distal to the dentate line and develop as a result of distention and swelling of the external hemorrhoidal venous system (see the first image below).[1] Engorgement of a hemorrhoidal vessel with acute swelling may allow blood to pool and, subsequently, clot; this leads to the acutely thrombosed external hemorrhoid, a bluish-purplish discoloration often accompanied by severe incapacitating pain (see the second image below).

Anatomy of external hemorrhoid. Image courtesy of Anatomy of external hemorrhoid. Image courtesy of MedicineNet, Inc.
Thrombosed hemorrhoid, treated with incision and r Thrombosed hemorrhoid, treated with incision and removal of clot. Image courtesy of Dr. Jonathan Adler.

Thrombosed external hemorrhoid is a common problem, but it remains a poorly studied topic. Reported risk factors for thrombosed external hemorrhoid include a recent bout of constipation[2, 3] and traumatic vaginal delivery.[4, 5]

Although conservative nonsurgical treatment (stool softeners, increased dietary fiber, increased fluid intake, warm baths, analgesia) ultimately results in improvement of symptoms for most patients, surgical excision of the thrombosed external hemorrhoid often precipitates resolution.[6, 7, 8]

Newer conservative treatments, such as topical nifedipine, show promise of having advantages over traditional conservative treatments, such as lidocaine ointment[9] ; however, in comparison with surgical excision, they have not yet been shown to shorten the time to symptom resolution or reduce the frequency of recurrence.

Surgical excision of the acutely thrombosed external hemorrhoid is within the purview of an office-based or emergency practitioner.[10, 11] This safe procedure offers low recurrence and complication rates and high levels of patient acceptance and satisfaction.[12]

Go to Hemorrhoids and Anal Surgery for Hemorrhoids for complete information on these topics.



Acute pain and thrombosis of an external hemorrhoid within 48-72 hours of onset is an indication for excision.

In a retrospective study by Greenspon et al, surgical treatment resulted in much faster symptom resolution (3.9 days vs 24 days), as well as a lower frequency of recurrence (6.3% vs 25.4%), in the study population.[13] A study by Cavcić et al demonstrated that in comparison with simple incision or topically applied 0.2% glycerin trinitrate ointment, thrombosed external hemorrhoid excision improved recurrence rates, symptoms, and residual skin tags at 1-year follow-up.[14]



Absolute contraindications to thrombosed external hemorrhoid excision in the emergency department (ED) include the following:

  • Any concern that the lesion may be something other than a thrombosed external hemorrhoid, such as a painless rectal mass (thrombosed external hemorrhoids are always painful)
  • A grade IV internal hemorrhoid associated with a thrombosed external hemorrhoid
  • Known severe coagulopathy
  • Hemodynamic instability

Relative contraindications to ED excision of a thrombosed external hemorrhoid include the following:

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Brett Wallace Lorber, MD, MPH, FACEP Attending PhysicianTorrance Memorial Medical Center

Brett Wallace Lorber, MD, MPH, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Luis M Lovato, MD Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Director of Critical Care, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Luis M Lovato, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Erik D Schraga, MD Staff Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mills-Peninsula Emergency Medical Associates

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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  9. Perrotti P, Antropoli C, Molino D, De Stefano G, Antropoli M. Conservative treatment of acute thrombosed external hemorrhoids with topical nifedipine. Dis Colon Rectum. 2001 Mar. 44(3):405-9. [Medline].

  10. Reichman EF, Simon RR. External Hemorrhoid Management. Emergency Medicine Procedures. McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing; 2004. 496-500.

  11. Roberts JR, Hedges JR. Anorectal Procedures. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2004. 871-4.

  12. Jongen J, Bach S, Stübinger SH, Bock JU. Excision of thrombosed external hemorrhoid under local anesthesia: a retrospective evaluation of 340 patients. Dis Colon Rectum. 2003 Sep. 46(9):1226-31. [Medline].

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  14. Cavcic J, Turcic J, Martinac P, Mestrovic T, Mladina R, Pezerovic-Panijan R. Comparison of topically applied 0.2% glyceryl trinitrate ointment, incision and excision in the treatment of perianal thrombosis. Dig Liver Dis. 2001 May. 33(4):335-40. [Medline].

  15. Zuber TJ. Hemorrhoidectomy for thrombosed external hemorrhoids. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Apr 15. 65(8):1629-32, 1635-6, 1639. [Medline]. [Full Text].

Taping of patient before procedure (thrombosed external hemorrhoid is at 9-o'clock position).
Preparation of light source for sterile field.
Injection of local anesthetic at hemorrhoid base and within hemorrhoid.
Application of povidone-iodine antiseptic.
Primary elliptical incision over hemorrhoid.
Further incision with removal of clot.
Gauze packing after procedure.
Dressing after excision.
Dressing after excision.
Thrombosed hemorrhoid, treated with incision and removal of clot. Image courtesy of Dr. Jonathan Adler.
Anatomy of external hemorrhoid. Image courtesy of MedicineNet, Inc.
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