What is a Subdural Hematoma
The human brain is quite fascinating. From generating enough energy to power an LED light bulb, to helping you solve complex problems; there’s no doubt that it’s a real powerhouse.
However, even though the human brain is the most powerful organ in the human body, it is also the most fragile. Head injuries are quite common in the United States and they’re the major cause of permanent disability and even death in extreme cases.
When you have an accident which causes head trauma, there’s a high probability you’ll suffer a hemorrhage. One of such hemorrhages is a subdural hematoma. This is a type of brain injury that occurs when blood floods the area between the outer protective layer of the brain, called the dura, and the middle protective layer called the arachnoid. This bleeding is caused by the rupturing of the veins that connect the brain to the dura mater which results in a hematoma.
This, in turn, causes pressure to mount on the brain through the compression of the skull. The speed at which this happens varies, depending on the type of subdural hematoma. There are three types of subdural hematoma:
- Acute Subdural Hematoma: An acute subdural hematoma can be fatal, though many injuries result in permanent brain injury, disability or death. A severe head injury from an accident or assault is usually the cause of this type of subdural hematoma, and the symptoms are quickly apparent.
- Subacute Subdural Hematoma: While this type of subdural hematoma is less severe than an acute subdural hematoma - and the symptoms usually take longer (days or even weeks) to develop - it is still as dangerous and should be treated with utmost urgency. Subacute subdural hematomas are mostly caused by accidental falling, a common occurrence among toddlers just learning to walk, run and climb.
- Chronic Subdural Hematoma: Often caused by overlooked head injuries such as hitting your head when getting out of a car, or walking into a door. According to a study, chronic subdural hematoma could also be caused by a history of trivial head traumas. This type of hematoma is significantly less severe (as a result of slower bleeding) than the other two, and it is more common in older people. Symptoms usually take weeks to appear.
Pro Tip: All these types of subdural hematomas require immediate medical attention once signs and symptoms become apparent - otherwise permanent brain damage could occur.
Symptoms and Causes of Subdural Hematoma
Symptoms of subdural hematoma range from mild to fatal and whether or not any other brain tissues have been damaged during the accident. These symptoms could happen directly after the impact on your head, or it could take several days or weeks before you begin to experience them.
Some of the mild symptoms include:
- Constant headaches
- Feeling sluggish
- Feeling drowsy, dizzy or both
While the fatal ones include:
- Seizures or convulsions
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Severe head injuries are often the major cause of subdural hematoma. Although the use of anticoagulant drugs such as aspirin or excessive use of alcohol could also make minor, often overlooked, head trauma result in a hematoma.
The most common causes of subdural hematoma are:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle or bicycle accidents
- Injuries from sports such as football, rugby, wrestling etc.
- Accidental falls
Pro Tip: If you’re involved in any accident where you suffer any form of head trauma it is advisable for you to seek medical attention immediately. You might have a serious injury, even though there is no obvious bruise or bleeding.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Subdural Hematoma
Diagnosing a subdural hematoma could be tricky, especially when you’re dealing with the chronic type. In most cases, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention immediately after a head trauma occurs, with or without symptoms of subdural hematoma.
In order to determine the position, size and current state of a suspected hematoma, doctors utilize any of the following diagnostic methods:
- Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan uses an advanced X-ray machine to produce images of your brain on a computer screen. This allows the doctors determine where the hematoma is, and what type of treatment to pursue. CT scans are the most commonly used diagnosis method for hemorrhages.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan: Unlike a CT scan, an MRI scan is performed using large magnetic radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain on a computer screen. An MRI scan is more advanced and more detailed, compared to CT scans, but it’s more expensive and not readily available.
Treatment is the next stage after diagnosis but this depends on the severity of the brain injury. Once the affected area has been located, and the size of damage caused has been determined, the appropriate treatment will follow – which is usually a surgery.
Listed below are the most common treatment options available, depending on the type of subdural hematoma you’re dealing with:
Self-Healing: This type of treatment is usually recommended for chronic subdural hematoma. The body is known for healing itself and because the damage is very little, the small bleeding that occurs is usually absorbed. Repeated CT or MRI scans are conducted to monitor the improvement.
Surgery: This is required in severe cases of subdural hematoma such as when the pressure on the brain is extremely unbearable. The most common surgical procedures used are:
- Burr Hole: This surgery requires the surgeon to drill a hole into the skull, over the affected area, and have the blood suctioned out through the hole.
- Craniotomy: This surgery requires the surgeon to remove a large part of the skull, around the injured area, in order to reduce pressure (possibly swelling) on the brain, remove the blood clot(s) and fix the ruptured veins.
Pro Tip: The road to recovery after a subdural hematoma surgery is long. You may begin to experience headaches, amnesia, anxiety and even post-traumatic seizures for up to a year after the surgery. Doctors prescribe anticonvulsant drugs such as phenytoin, to avoid seizures, and diuretics to reduce swelling, especially in children.
How to Protect Yourself from a Head Injury
The best way of preventing yourself or loved ones from subdural hematoma or any other form of brain injury is to be safe. Make sure you have a helmet on when participating in sports where falls, concussions, and collisions are likely to occur. Also, always fasten your seatbelt whenever you’re in a vehicle, even when you’re not the one driving. If it is your car, make sure your airbags and brake pads are in good order.
People taking anticoagulants or aspirin on a daily basis, excessive drinkers, the elderly and children are at a higher risk of subdural hematoma and as a result, they should take extra precautions. Contact your doctor or nearest hospital once you begin to notice obvious signs of subdural hematoma.
Contact an Experienced Indianapolis Brain Injury Lawyer
Also, contact a legal counsel if you believe your accident was a result of the negligence of others. We are personal injury attorneys with a track record of successful claims. Contact us today for a no-string-attached free consultation today.