Subdural Hematoma – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is a subdural hematoma?
A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood outside the surface of the brain, but below the inner layer of the dura. Dura is the thick membrane made of dense connective tissue that surrounds the brain. A subdural hematoma is a serious condition, which often results in brain injury and may lead to death.
What causes subdural hematomas?
Severe head injuries mostly cause subdural hematomas. After a head injury, small veins between the surface of the brain and the dura (outer covering of the brain) stretch and tear, leading to bleeding. The bleeding fills the brain area quickly and compresses the brain tissue. This leads to brain injury and sometimes may lead to death.
Minor head injuries can also cause subdural hematomas. But the amount of bleeding is less and occurs more slowly. This type of subdural hematoma mostly occurs in older adults. These subdural hematomas may go unnoticed for many days to weeks and are called chronic subdural hematomas.
Sometimes, subdural hematomas occur without any cause.
The following factors can increase the risk for a subdural hematoma:
- Blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin or aspirin
- Chronic alcohol use
- Medical conditions that make your blood clot poorly
- Repeated head injuries
- Very young or very old age
What are the symptoms of a subdural hematoma?
Symptoms of a subdural hematoma vary depending on location and size of the hematoma and where it presses on the brain.
One or more of the following symptoms may occur:
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems
- Trouble with balance or walking
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or numbness
In infants, the following symptoms may occur:
- Bulging fontanelles (the soft spots of the baby’s skull)
- Separated sutures (the areas where growing skull bones join)
- Increased head size (circumference)
- High-pitched crying
- Increased sleepiness or lethargy
- Feeding problems
- Persistent vomiting
How is a subdural hematoma diagnosed?
The doctor will review the symptoms and will order a CT or MRI scan of the head for diagnosis.
How is a subdural hematoma treated?
A subdural hematoma is an emergency medical condition, which requires treatment right away.
Treatment depends on the type of subdural hematoma, the severity of the symptoms, and the extent of brain damage that has occurred.
Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines:
- Diuretics (water pills) and corticosteroids to reduce swelling
- Anti-seizure drugs to control or prevent seizures
Your doctor may perform emergency surgery to drain any blood and relieve pressure on the brain. Surgery may involve drilling a small hole in the skull. The doctor may opt to do craniotomy (making a large opening in the skull) to remove large hematomas or solid blood clots.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.