On the Brain: What's a Subdural Bleed?

Published: February 11, 2020

By Todd Miller, MD, Neurointerventional Radiology

Have Questions About Subdural Bleeds?

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While there are a few different types of brain bleeds, subdural bleeds can now be cured with minimally invasive treatment, avoiding brain surgery.

What's a Subdural Bleed?

A subdural bleed is a type of brain bleed that happens between the brain and the brain’s outer lining called the dura. Experts predict that as many as 60,000 Americans will have these brain bleeds each year. Subdural bleeds, also called subdural hemorrhages or subdural hematoma, are the most common types of brain bleed that require treatment.

What Causes Subdural Bleeds? 

    As you age, the brain can lose volume and create space between the brain and the tough outer membrane called the dura. At that point, blood can slowly collect between the brain and the dura. Subdural bleeds:

    • Can be caused by mild head injury, but there may not always be a history of head injury
    • Are more common in patients taking blood-thinning medications
    • Happen more frequently in older patients

    Rendering of human brainHow Do I Know if I Have a Subdural Bleed?

    The most common symptom is “not feeling oneself.”

    • If you’re having weakness or unsteadiness or are feeling progressively tired for a week or more, you may want to see a doctor regardless.
    • Depending on the size of the subdural bleed and where it’s pressing on the brain, other symptoms can include confused or slurred speech, balance or walking problems, headache, lack of energy or confusion, seizures or loss of consciousness.
    • Subdural bleeds are easily diagnosed with a routine CT scan of the head - a test that takes seconds to perform.

    Cerebrovascular Specialists 

    The cerebrovascular team at Stamford Heath has been successfully treating acute large vessel strokes (a blockage in one of the major arteries of the brain) and brain aneurysms. This leading-edge treatment for patients with subdural hemorrhages was, until recently, was only available at the largest academic medical centers.

    Can Subdural Bleeds be Fixed?

    Yes, they are treatable. Subdural bleeds sometimes get better without treatment. The treatment used to require invasive brain surgery followed by a long hospital stay.

    Stamford Health offers a treatment for subdural bleeds that cures 90% of patients without brain surgery

    Arterial embolization is a common technique used to treat other conditions such as bleeds and tumors throughout the body, but experts have recently discovered that it works as a treatment for subdural bleeds. Stamford Health is pleased to offer patients this breakthrough option that eliminates the need for brain surgery.

    Here's how arterial embolization works to treat subdural bleeds:

    • A tiny catheter (plastic tube) is inserted through the wrist or groin and is used to deliver particles that block the artery to the covering of the brain. This is called catheterization and embolization.
    • The procedure can be completed in one-two hours on an outpatient basis. This highly effective treatment avoids the need for surgery and an ICU stay.

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