How many times have we bumped our heads? It is hard to even count, because usually the bumps are so insignificant that they are not worthy of holding in our long-term memory. They might feel like they are not worth going to the hospital because they seem like such a small injury. It turns out that even gentle knocks to the head can be the cause of a traumatic brain injury – specifically, a subdural hematoma.
How is that possible? One would assume that the initial injury would need to be far more severe, such as a concussion or skull fracture; however, medical science shows us otherwise.
How can bumping my head lead to a subdural hematoma?
NPR tells the story of how, in 2016, an experienced and lauded doctor bumped his head in the attic while looking for some files. He thought nothing of it until, as weeks passed, he began to feel unusually weak, his personality began to change, and his mental reactions became slower. He had thought this was all due to some back pain he had been experiencing from a previous injury, but with all these changes to his body and mind, he decided to go in for an MRI. What they found was astonishing. Inside his skull was a pool of blood that was pressing on his brain, also called a subdural hematoma. Thankfully, they rushed him into surgery, and the hematoma was taken care of. That small bump that he had experienced weeks earlier had led to this serious hematoma, but how?
According to brain specialists, this occurrence is not uncommon. In fact, most people who develop a subdural hematoma do not ever know they had one, as the brain often absorbs the blood, and the person’s symptoms disappear. However, for thousands of others, the blood remains unabsorbed by their brain, they suffer the symptoms, and some die. Note that there is no need to go to the doctor every time you bump your head, but if you begin to experience the symptoms that come along with a subdural hematoma or other type of brain injury, it is best to get it checked out.
What is a subdural hematoma?
In order to understand what a subdural hematoma is and how it occurs, we need to understand a little bit about the brain. The brain is surrounded by a protective layer of membrane called the dura layer. Inside this layer, there is a network of veins that connect the dura to the brain. As we get older, our brains begin to shrink away from the dura layer, therefore exposing more of these veins as they stretch, becoming more vulnerable. For the elderly especially, bumps and sudden jolts to the head can cause their brains to jostle, potentially damaging or tearing the veins that connect the dura to the brain.
These veins, as small as they are, do not burst or gush blood. Instead, they ooze slowly, making this sort of injury sometimes difficult to notice until its later stages, when the now-significant pool of blood in the space between the dura layer and brain begins to press against the brain in a way not dissimilar to a tumor.
Researchers studied the problem a few years ago at a sample of 20 percent of the nation’s hospitals…Those hospitals alone diagnosed almost 44,000 subdural hematomas in one year. So the researchers estimate there could be more than 200,000 subdural hematoma injuries diagnosed annually at all the hospitals across the country.
The dangerous part about hematomas is that they are often misdiagnosed. Patients come into the doctor complaining of weakness, confusion, and headaches, but they don’t think to mention the time they lightly bumped their head. How could a light bump to the head cause all of this? A doctor knows better, and should think to ask an elderly patient if he or she has bumped their head in the recent past.
The most common way that the elderly end up with hematomas is through a fall, or a near fall. One study of trauma patients found “59% of their elderly population who required CT scans for evaluation of closed head trauma sustained their trauma from falls.” Motor vehicle accidents are also a common way to suffer a hematoma, but not nearly as common as falls.
The body is a complex mechanism where everything is interconnected. It can be very strong, or it can weaken and become vulnerable to the slightest damage. Subdural hematomas can occur from the smallest head bump, especially to the elderly. It is important that we take care of ourselves, and be extra cautious as we age. If you feel yourself suffering from the symptoms of a hematoma, make sure to get to a hospital. Mention any memories you have of hitting your head, or ask your doctor for an MRI.
You cannot be too careful when it comes to your health, and you do not want to end up with a misdiagnosis. Even doctors make mistakes, and when they do, it may be strategic to seek out an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to get the compensation you deserve. That is where the medical malpractice attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP come in. We can help. To set up an appointment, contact us at our Atlanta office by calling 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774. You can also reach us through our contact page to set up a consultation.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.