What can I expect if I have a subdural hematoma?

If you have a subdural hematoma, your prognosis depends on your age, the severity of your head injury and how quickly you received treatment. About 50% of people with large acute hematomas survive, though permanent brain damage often occurs as a result of the injury. Younger people have a higher chance of survival than older adults.

People with chronic subdural hematomas usually have the best prognosis, especially if they have few or no symptoms and remained awake and alert after the head injury.

Older adults have an increased risk of developing another bleed (hemorrhage) after recovering from a chronic subdural hematoma. This is because older brains cannot re-expand and fill the space where the blood was, leaving them more vulnerable to future brain bleeds with even minor head injuries.

When should I get emergency medical assistance if I’ve had a head injury?

A subdural hematoma is always a risk after a head injury. If you or someone you know has any of the following symptoms after a head injury, call 911 or seek medical attention immediately.

  • Loss of consciousness (friend or witness needs to call 911).
  • Slurred speech.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Change in alertness/drowsiness.
  • Balance/walking problems.
  • Double vision.
  • Weakness or numbness in any part of the body.
  • Seizures.
  • Severe headache.

People at increased risk of a subdural hematoma – even though the head injury appears minor – should also get immediate medical attention. These people include:

  • The elderly.
  • People who take blood-thinning drugs or have diseases that make clotting difficult (like hemophilia, von Willebrand disease).
  • Heavy drinkers of alcohol.

Subdural hematomas can be life-threatening. If you have a head injury, get immediate medical attention. Don’t wait to “see if symptoms develop.” It’s better to be safe, than sorry.

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