Subdural hematoma

A subdural hematoma is when blood collects on the surface of the brain underneath the skull. They are most commonly a result from a head injury and are caused when a vein ruptures between the surface of the brain and the skull. When blood pools, it presses on the brain, leading to increased risks of permanent damage. While the initial cause of the subdural hematoma may be classified as traumatic, any injury to the brain from the pressure of the subdural hematoma would be a non-traumatic injury.

There are two kinds of subdural hematomas: acute and chronic. Acute subdural hematomas are caused by severe head injuries – for example from a car accident. They form quickly and symptoms appear immediately. Acute subdural hematomas and the related medical issues are life-threatening. Chronic subdural hematomas are smaller and more common with mild head injuries or repeated injuries – for example, from a fall. They can also occur without any obvious connection to an injury. They are easier to treat, but they can have fatal complications.

Symptoms of a subdural hematoma

Symptoms of a subdural hematoma will appear right away in acute cases and gradually (or not at all) in chronic cases. Common symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision problems

These symptoms are similar to other serious medical issues like cardiac arrest or stroke. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis and treatment for subdural hematoma

Doctors will perform tests to first confirm a person has a subdural hematoma. These tests will include computed tomography (CT) scans and MRIs. If there is a subdural hematoma, it will require surgery. There are a couple different surgery options available, and doctors will make recommendations based on how quickly they need to act to drain the blood from the brain’s surface. Doctors will explain the procedures and accompanying risks, as well as what they recommend as your best option. After your surgery, you will be kept in the hospital for recovery until you are evaluated and able to be discharged.

The effects of a subdural hematoma

A subdural hematoma can have lasting effects on your behaviour, cognition, and physical abilities, depending on where it was and the severity of the damage. There is also a chance that complications such as seizures may occur. You will need to work with a medical team to develop a rehabilitation and recovery plan to address any changes.

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