What is a Subdural Hematoma and What are the Causes & Symptoms

What Is A Subdural Hematoma?

A subdural hematoma, or subdural hemorrhage, is a condition in which blood collects between the brain and the skull. Subdural hematomas can sometimes be associated with bleeding on the inside of the brain as well, but these are two separate issues. There are a few different layers of tissues that surround the brain, the outmost of which is called the dura. In a subdural hematoma, blood collects between this layer and the next layer below it, the arachnoid.

There are an estimated 1.5 million traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year in the US. While there are many different types of brain injuries, subdural hematoma is common and among the deadliest of all head injuries.

What Can Cause a Subdural Hematoma?

  • Head Injuries – Impacts from falls, sports, motor vehicle accidents, and shaken-baby syndrome, are some of the principal causes of subdural hematomas. Sudden impact can cause ruptures in the blood vessels that surround the brain, allowing blood to begin pooling between the dura and the arachnoid.
  • Stretching and Weakening of the Blood Vessels – Most commonly occurring in the elderly, the subdural blood vessels can rupture even from minor impacts, resulting in a chronic subdural hematoma.

What Are the Symptoms of a Subdural Hematoma?

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of a subdural hematoma so you can seek medical attention right away. Equally important is understanding what causes the symptoms to become apparent. As the blood pools between the layers of the membrane surrounding the brain, it causes pressure build-up. This pressure, in turn, is what can cause the following symptoms:

  • Loss of Consciousness – In severe head injuries, the rate of bleeding can be so rapid that it may cause loss of consciousness or even a coma.
  • Confusion – In less severe head injuries, the rate of bleeding may be low. In this case, it may take several days for a person to exhibit major symptoms such as loss of consciousness. During this time, though, the person may become increasingly confused.
  • Changes in Speech or Vision – Pressure on certain centers of the brain can cause slurred speech and/or vision impairment.
  • Severe Headache – Pressure from the bleeding can cause severe headaches.
  • Seizures – A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled disturbance in the brain that can cause convulsing and loss of awareness.
  • Symptoms Over Time – Chronic subdural hemorrhages may produce symptoms over time as the blood builds up. They may include a change in personality, vomiting, difficulty walking or balance issues, double vision, mild to severe headaches, difficulty remembering things, and eventually loss of consciousness. The tricky thing is that these symptoms are similar to other brain ailments like a brain tumor, dementia or a stroke.

    What Are Treatment Options for a Subdural Hematoma?

    Brain surgery is the only treatment for an acute subdural hematoma. However, if the doctor has determined from head imaging tests that the subdural hematoma is less severe, with only mild symptoms, the recommendation may be observation rather than treatment. Repeated scans over time are required to monitor progress.

    For a brain injury consultation, speak with the board-certified neurosurgeons at Hudson Valley Brain & Spine Surgery.