Bleeding inside the brain can be caused by physical trauma, stroke, brain tumor, drug interactions, high blood pressure, or other health conditions. The brain relies on a steady supply of oxygen and blood in order to function. Bleeding that interrupts the supply of oxygen to the brain can cause serious damage, and lead to death.
When someone suffers a brain bleed, rapid treatment will give the individual the best chance at recovery. The more extensive the bleeding, the greater risk of permanent brain damage or death.
What is an Intracranial Hemorrhage?
A brain bleed, or brain hemorrhage, is a general term for bleeding inside the skull. Also known as an intracranial hemorrhage, there are a number of specific types of brain hemorrhage, based on where in the brain or skull the bleeding occurs, including:
- Epidural hemorrhage
- Subdural hemorrhage
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Intracerebral hemorrhage
- Intraventricular hemorrhage
An epidural bleed occurs just under the skull bone later, in the dura mater, the uppermost membrane layer of the meninges. This is most often caused by head trauma, such as a car accident or sporting accident. An epidural hematoma often involves a loss of consciousness, regaining of consciousness, followed by loss of consciousness again. Without treatment, an epidural hemorrhage can lead to death.
A subdural bleed occurs between the dura mater and the arachnoid membrane. Subdural hematomas are generally caused by trauma that involves shaking or shearing forces on the head, including car accidents. Patients on blood thinners, the elderly, and alcoholics may have an increased risk of subdural hemorrhage.
A subarachnoid bleed occurs between the arachnoid mater and the pia mater, the layer just outside of the brain. Symptoms of a subarachnoid bleed can include vomiting, loss of consciousness, severe headache, and seizures. Subarachnoid hemorrhage can be caused by head injury or cerebral aneurysm.
An intracerebral hemorrhage occurs inside the brain. This type of hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain, destroying surrounding brain tissue. Causes of a cerebral bleed include trauma, aneurysms, brain tumors, and other health conditions.
Also occurring inside the brain, an intraventricular hemorrhage occurs in the ventricular system, where the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulates. This can be caused by trauma and can be a type of birth injury that occurs in premature babies.
A hemorrhagic stroke is a type of brain bleed that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing swelling. Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13% of all stroke cases. However, hemorrhagic strokes have a much higher fatality rate, and account for 40% of all stroke-related deaths.
An intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain, destroying surrounding brain tissue. A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when the bleeding is in the area between the brain and skull. Subarachnoid hemorrhages are often caused by a ruptured aneurysm.
Brain Hemorrhage Injuries
When bleeding occurs inside the brain and is not treated, the blood can build up, causing swelling. Swelling in the brain is known as cerebral edema. Cerebral edema and the hematoma, or mass of blood, can increase pressure inside the skull, which damages brain tissue and kills blood cells.
Damage to the brain can be caused by both the buildup of pressure and the lack of oxygen. The brain bleed and edema can both restrict the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain, triggering brain cell death, and eventual death.
The injuries caused by a brain hemorrhage generally depend on the extent of the bleed and the amount of time the brain has been deprived of oxygen or under severe intracranial pressure. Injuries can include permanent brain damage, stroke, coma, vegetative state, seizures, and permanent changes in behavior.
After only a few minutes, brain cells can begin to die. If a brain bleed is treated quickly, any damage may be temporary. Even minor damage can see partial recovery through therapy and treatment. Recovery for patients may also depend on the age and health of the individual.
Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Bleed
Signs and symptoms of a brain bleed depend on a number of factors, including the age of the patient, overall health, and extent of hemorrhage. Signs and symptoms of a brain bleed may include:
- Sudden or severe headache
- Weakness on one side
- Numbness or tingling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision or changes in vision
- Vertigo or difficulty balancing
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Feeling tired or lethargic
- Loss of consciousness
Diagnosing a Brain Bleed
There are a number of lab and imaging tests that can be used to help diagnose a hemorrhage, including:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI
- Ultrasonography (US)
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Spinal tap or lumbar puncture
- Cerebrospinal fluid exam
Signs and symptoms of a possible brain injury may put a doctor on notice to conduct further evaluation to identify or rule out a brain bleed. Any traumatic accident that may have caused head injury, including car accident, fall, or assault, may also be a cause to further evaluate a possible brain bleed.
Treatment and Interventions for Brain Hemorrhage
Treatment for a brain injury can depend on the cause of the bleeding, extent of the injury, age of the patient, location of the brain bleed, amount of swelling, and patient's overall health. Interventions may include:
- Reducing intracranial pressure
- Lowering blood pressure
- Decompression of the brain through an incision, craniotomy, or burr hole
After the immediate threats are contained, the patient may need long-term treatment for any damage done to the brain. This can include physical, speech, and occupational therapy to help the patient regain maximum function.
Brain Bleeds in Birth Injury
Intracranial hemorrhages can occur during labor. These are often caused by some sort of head trauma, generally during the delivery process. Infant heads are much more sensitive than adults and any trauma can cause bleeding into the brain, which can lead to serious and permanent injury, including:
- Mental disabilities
- Physical disabilities
Medical Malpractice Claims After a Brain Bleed
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient suffers an injury as a result of negligent or incompetent care by a healthcare professional. When health care professionals breach their standard of care, which causes an injury, the health care professional may be held liable for medical malpractice.
In a brain hemorrhage case, malpractice could cause a brain bleed or failed treatment of a brain bleed could be caused by malpractice. For example, a doctor makes a mistake in a prescription and prescribes 10x the intended dosage. If the patient takes the medication and suffers bleeding in the brain, the patient may have a malpractice claim.
As another example, a doctor delivers a baby to a mother with high blood pressure. The hospital is short on staff and they keep moving nurses around, leaving no one to check on the mother for a couple of hours. When a nurse comes to check on the mother, the mother is unconscious and has been suffering from a brain bleed. It could be medical malpractice if the mother is injured or harmed.
Brain Hemorrhage and Brain Bleed Attorneys
If a loved one suffered a brain bleed in an accident or a doctor failed to properly treat a brain hemorrhage, causing brain damage or death, talk to an experienced attorney about your options for recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.