An intracerebral hemorrhage is a potentially life-threatening emergency, requiring immediate medical attention.
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What is an intracerebral hemorrhage?
An intracerebral hemorrhage can be life threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
An intracerebral hemorrhage occurs after a blood vessel bursts in the brain, flooding brain tissue with blood.
The excess blood in the brain causes a pressure buildup, which can damage brain cells. In cases where blood builds up too rapidly, a person may pass out or die.
An intracerebral hemorrhage can occur in a few different areas of the brain. The most common locations include:
- basal ganglia
- brain stem
Some of the initial symptoms may include
- partial paralysis of the body
It is vital for a person with symptoms of an intracerebral hemorrhage to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treating an intracerebral hemorrhage involves a rapid response to stop the bleeding and potentially drain the blood. Depending on the amount of damage and where the hemorrhage is located in the brain, a person may require long-term care.
Causes and risk factors
Intracerebral hemorrhages can occur in anyone at any age. However, people with high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing an intracerebral hemorrhage.
High blood pressure, particularly unrealized or untreated high blood pressure, is the most common cause of intracerebral hemorrhage.
Many people do not know they have high blood pressure as it often has no symptoms and is not diagnosed until a checkup for another medical issue.
For younger people, who are less prone to high blood pressure, abnormal blood vessels in the brain may cause an intracerebral hemorrhage.
Less common causes of intracerebral hemorrhages include:
- trauma or head injury
- use of blood thinners
- ruptured cerebral aneurysm
- problems with blood-clotting
- drug abuse
- blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia
A person's risk of an intracerebral hemorrhage may increase as they age, especially as high blood pressure is more common in older adults.
A person may reduce the risk of developing an intracerebral hemorrhage by:
- controlling diabetes
- quitting or never smoking
- managing and treating heart disease
- exercising regularly
- eating a healthful diet
- treating high blood pressure
There are many potential symptoms of an intracerebral hemorrhage. Some of them seem relatively harmless, such as a headache.
However, it is important to be aware of some of the most telling signs and symptoms. These symptoms may include:
Confusion, difficulty understanding others, and loss of coordination may all be symptoms of intracerebral hemorrhage.
- sudden, severe headache
- trouble speaking
- difficulty understanding others
- sudden inability to write or read
- sudden tingling or weakness in one arm, leg, or one side of the face
- loss of consciousness
- extreme fatigue
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of balance
- vision issues in one or both eyes
- loss of coordination
If a person experiences any of the above symptoms, they require immediate medical attention. Bleeding in the brain is a life-threatening medical emergency.
A doctor will usually look inside the brain using a CT scan or MRI to see if there is bleeding and to find the cause. Doctors use these imaging tests to determine if the person has symptoms from an intracerebral hemorrhage or from another condition, such as a stroke.
In some cases, a doctor may use an angiogram to look for abnormalities in the person's blood cells. An angiogram uses X-rays to look at blood vessels.
Finally, a doctor may order blood tests. The blood tests can be used to help determine other underlying causes, including autoimmune diseases or problems with blood-clotting.
A MRI or CT scan may be used to confirm an intracerebral hemorrhage.
There are two types of treatment for an intracerebral hemorrhage: immediate and long-term.
In general, a person will have a better outcome if they are treated within 3 hours of the bleeding starting. The longer a person goes without treatment, the more likely they are to experience serious complications, including death.
Immediate treatment for an intracerebral hemorrhage usually includes controlling the blood pressure and the bleeding. Sometimes it may require surgery.
During surgery, a doctor will remove the blood clot, repair any damaged arteries, and relieve pressure on the brain.
A person will also require medication to treat immediate symptoms, such as a headache and high blood pressure. A doctor will also prescribe anti-seizure medication, which may be taken for months or even years.
For long-term care, a person may require medication to control high blood pressure and reduce the risk of a future hemorrhage.
Additional treatment will vary depending on the amount of damage to the brain. Occupational therapy may be required to help them regain muscle control and reduce dependency on others.
Speech therapy may be required to enable a person to regain the ability to communicate with others.