The NeuroMedical Center | Patient Education Library | Subdural Hematoma

What is a Subdural Hematoma?

A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood outside the brain and beneath the skull. Subdural hematomas put pressure on the brain below, and can cause symptoms and damage as they compress vital brain structures.  Subdural hematomas usually result from head injury and can be life-threatening.

How Subdural Hematoma Forms

The bleeding in a subdural hematoma is under the skull and outside the brain, not in the brain itself.  Hematomas are often caused by a head injury, such as from a fall, motor vehicle collision, or an assault.  When a violent blow to your head stretches and tears blood vessels around your brain, this is known as acute subdural hematoma.  A non-acute subdural hematoma may occur after a stroke, as the result of a brain lesion, or for no clear reason.  The blood vessels leak, letting blood pool against the brain. The bleeding can quickly fill the brain, compressing parts of the brain, impeding brain function, leading to organ failure, and even causing death.  

Understanding Chronic Subdural Hematoma

chronic subdural hematoma usually occurs in the elderly, progresses slowly and can be caused by even a minor bump to the head. As we age, our brain tissue slowly shrinks. Blood vessels that extend from the brain to the skull stretch and become vulnerable to tears. The vessels can rupture on their own, or they can tear if the head is bumped or jolted. A single episode of leaking may go unnoticed, but repeated leaks can cause a dangerous buildup of blood. Medications that delay blood clotting may make the problem worse.  A hematoma can also happen even without a head injury if a weak artery in your head bursts.

Subdural Hematoma Symptoms

Most people who experience a subdural hematoma have suffered a blow to the head or fall, so seek immediate medical attention if this happens to you. Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • Changes in consciousness, including fainting or falling asleep
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech; slurred speech
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in motor skills, especially unexplained difficulties with walking or balance
  • Confusion or feeling lethargic
  • Numbness anywhere in the body
  • Inability to move parts of the body
  • Sudden changes in mood, personality, or cognition; these signs are especially troubling in seniors, even if they have dementia
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision or hearing

Subdural Hematoma Treatment Options

There are two treatment goals when managing subdural hematomas: first, to stop the bleeding and save the patient’s life, and second, to mitigate or reverse any damage the bleeding has caused.  Small or symptomless subdural hematomas may not need treatment and only need to be watched over time. For severe cases, surgery is often needed. If surgery is recommended, it’ll be carried out by a neurosurgeon.

There are two widely used surgical techniques to treat subdural hematoma:

  • Craniotomy – a section of the skull is temporarily removed so the surgeon can access and remove the hematoma
  • Burr Hole Drainage– a small hole is drilled into the skull and a tube is inserted through the hole to help drain the hematoma

A subdural hematoma is not something you can diagnose at home, though you may suspect you have one based on symptoms. Any head injury is a medical emergency that has the potential to become life-threatening. So if you have recently suffered a blow to the head, have signs of a stroke, or have experienced a change in consciousness or personality, don’t delay seeking medical help.

Expert Care for Subdural Hematoma in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Finding a physician who can properly diagnose and treat your subdural hematoma is key to protecting your brain from permanent damage and making your symptoms easier to manage.  If you are looking for the highest level of expertise in caring for subdural hematomas and all brain-related conditions, trust the experts at The NeuroMedical Center..  Contact our offices today (225) 768-2050 or request an appointment online with a NeuroMedical Center neurosurgeon today!