A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood outside the brain that is typically the result of severe head injuries. This condition can be severe and life-threatening.
Understanding Subdural Hematoma
When a subdural hematoma occurs, the layers of tissue surrounding the brain become engulfed with blood. The outermost layer of tissue surrounding the brain is the dura. When a subdural hematoma occurs, bleeding happens in this layer and the next layer, the arachnoid. The blood surrounding the brain puts pressure on the brain and this pressure causes symptoms that can ultimately lead to unconsciousness or death.
Causes of Subdural Hematoma
A subdural hematoma is typically only caused by blood surrounding the head tissue that tears the blood vessels near the brain. Head injuries that cause subdural hematomas can include falls or assaults.
Nursing home residents who take blood thinners are at greater risk of subdural hematomas if they fall or are the victim of an assault. Even a minor injury to the head while on blood thinners can cause a subdural hematoma.
In the case of chronic subdural hematoma, smaller veins on the outer surface of the brain may tear, which can cause bleeding in the subdural space surrounding the brain. If this occurs, symptoms may not be noticeable for days or even weeks.
Elderly residents of nursing homes are more susceptible to chronic subdural hematoma because their brains shrink due to age. These tiny veins can stretch and are more vulnerable to possible tears. If a nursing home resident falls or is the victim of abuse in any way, they are likely to suffer a subdural hematoma, leading to severe symptoms or death.
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Nursing Home Negligence
Nursing home negligence is, unfortunately, a large cause of subdural hematomas in nursing home residents. Some causes of subdural hematomas from nursing home negligence include the following:
- Failure to properly monitor, assist, or supervise residents who may fall and hit their head.
- Failure to give proper medications, which can cause dizziness, fatigue, or disorientation.
- Failure to provide proper nutrition, which can cause weakness, dizziness, fatigue, or instability.
- Failure to properly transfer a resident from a wheelchair to a chair or bed.
- Failure to monitor a resident in a bathtub or shower.
- Allowing a resident to wander without supervision.
- Failure to clean spills or messes that can cause a resident to fall.
- Failure to monitor a patient for too long so that they attempt to get up on their own and fall.
- Dropping a resident on a lift.
- Failure to staff the nursing home appropriately to ensure that residents are adequately monitored.
Symptoms of Subdural Hematoma
Nursing home staff should receive training on how to identify the signs and symptoms of subdural hematoma. Some of the most common symptoms of subdural hematoma include:
- Loss of consciousness or becoming comatose (indicates a sudden severe subdural hematoma likely from an injury or abuse).
- Slow confusion over a matter of days (indicates a slower rate of bleeding and an enlarging subdural hematoma).
- Change in behavior, including apathy.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Excessive lethargy or drowsiness.
Each person may exhibit different and distinct symptoms as their subdural hematoma progresses. A person’s age and medical condition will contribute to how their subdural hematoma presents itself.
Diagnosing Subdural Hematoma
If you suspect that your elderly loved one may suffer from a subdural hematoma, you should seek medical attention for them immediately. Oftentimes, a doctor will order a CT scan or MRI of the head to determine if the interior of the skull shows any subdural hematoma. In more rare cases, an angiography can diagnose a subdural hematoma. However, this process is not typical and is more invasive.
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Treatments for Subdural Hematoma
If a doctor diagnoses your elderly loved one with subdural hematoma, the treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. In severe cases, brain surgery is necessary. However, in more mild cases, doctors may simply suggest watching to see if the subdural hematoma approves on its own.
Oftentimes, doctors will order several CT scans or MRIs to determine if the subdural hematoma is improving. If a doctor determines surgery is necessary, they may use various techniques to attempt to treat the subdural hematoma, including burr hole trephination, craniotomy, or craniectomy.
If a patient is on blood thinners, the doctor may order that the patient stop taking this medication to attempt to improve blood clotting or prescribe other medications, such as those that help reduce swelling, reduce brain pressure, or control seizures.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you suspect your elderly loved one suffered from a subdural hematoma in a nursing home because of a nursing home’s negligence, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your family member’s legal rights.