Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
An epidural hematoma occurs when a mass of blood forms in the space between your skull and the protective covering of your brain. Trauma or other injury to your head can cause your brain to bounce against the inside of your skull. This can tear your brain’s internal lining, tissues, and blood vessels, which results in bleeding. This can cause a hematoma to form.
An epidural hematoma can put pressure on your brain and cause it to swell. As it swells, your brain may shift in your skull. Pressure on and damage to your brain’s tissues can affect your vision, speech, mobility, and consciousness. If left untreated, an epidural hematoma can cause lasting brain damage and even death.
If you suspect you have an epidural hematoma, get medical attention right away.
The symptoms of an epidural hematoma depend on its severity. They can arise minutes or hours after you sustain a head injury. You might have an epidural hematoma if you experience:
You might lose consciousness for a brief period of time. This might be followed by a period of alertness before you fall unconscious again. You can even slip into a coma.
An epidural hematoma usually results from trauma or other injury to your head. For example, your brain may be subjected to a damaging blow during a fall, vehicular accident, or collision in contact sports. Physical abuse can also cause head injury and lead to an epidural hematoma.
You’re at higher risk of developing an epidural hematoma if you:
If your doctor suspects you have an epidural hematoma, they can use a variety of tests to diagnose and locate it. For example, they may order:
Your recommended treatment plan for an epidural hematoma will depend on the severity of your condition and symptoms. Having other injuries or health conditions can also affect your treatment.
In most cases, your doctor will recommend surgery to remove an epidural hematoma. It usually involves a craniotomy. In this procedure, your surgeon will open up part of your skull so they can remove the hematoma and reduce the pressure on your brain.
In other cases, your doctor may recommend aspiration. In this procedure, they will cut a small hole in your skull and use suction to remove the hematoma. This may only be effective for a very small hematoma that’s not putting pressure on your brain.
Before craniotomy or aspiration, your doctor might prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and intracranial pressure. For example, they may recommend hyperosmotic agents. These drugs can help reduce swelling in your brain. They include mannitol, glycerol, and hypertonic saline.
After your hematoma has been removed, your doctor may prescribe antiseizure medications. This can help prevent seizures — a possible complication of head injuries. You might need to take these medications for months or even years.
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other therapist. They can help you manage symptoms and disabilities caused by your injury, such as:
They may recommend exercises to improve your physical abilities, along with other coping strategies.
Your recovery process can take time. Most improvements will occur within the first six months after your injury and treatment. Additional improvements may take up to two years.
To help promote your recovery process, your doctor will likely encourage you to:
Without prompt medical treatment, an epidural hematoma carries a high risk of death. Even with treatment, it can cause lasting brain damage and disability.
Prompt treatment increases your chances of survival and improves your recovery prospects. Following your doctor’s recommended treatment plan can also help you recover, while lowering your risk of complications and permanent disability.
It’s not always possible to avoid accidents. As a result, head trauma and epidural hematomas can happen to anyone. But you can lower your risk of injury by taking a few simple safety precautions. For example:
These basic precautions can help protect your head and brain from injury.
Written by: Anna Zernone Giorgi
Medically reviewed on: Sep 12, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.