Brain Hemorrhage

Seek Treatment from Board-Certified Neurologists at Our Brain Care Center

Brain bleeding, also called a brain hemorrhage or brain bleed, can be caused by a head trauma, a brain tumor, stroke, or other health conditions. Bleeding in the brain can cause permanent disability or death, as it can reduce delivery of oxygen-rich blood to areas of the brain, killing brain cells in the process. The brain relies on a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients, carried by the blood through the arteries (blood vessels traveling away from the heart), and when a brain bleed happens, oxygen can no longer reach brain tissue because the arteries are torn or damaged.

A brain bleed is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you suspect you or someone you know has suffered a brain hemorrhage, immediately call 9-1-1 for prompt transportation to the nearest hospital – do not drive or let someone else drive you.

Our team of neurology specialists at The Department of Neurosurgery at Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health have extensive clinical experience in diagnosing and treating brain hemorrhages. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about our facility and how we can help you cope with a brain bleed.

Causes of Bleeding in the Brain

  • Head trauma: This common cause of disability may start with something as seemingly harmless as a bump on the head, but it could result in serious brain damage if it causes a brain bleed. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that 1.7 million cases of traumatic brain injury occur every year nationwide, so it is critical to protect the head, especially for children, whose brains are still developing. If you ride a motorcycle or play contact sports, it is critically important to wear a helmet to protect your head and prevent injury.

  • High blood pressure: Untreated hypertension is the most common cause of brain bleeds. Brain arteries begin to weaken as excess force of the blood against the walls of your arteries can cause a brain bleed.

  • Ruptured brain aneurysm: This is caused by a weak spot in a blood vessel ballooning out and bursting.

  • Bleeding disorders: Conditions such as hemophilia or sickle cell anemia can contribute to a brain bleed.

  • Blood vessel abnormalities, or arteriovenous malformations (AV): This rare cause of brain bleeds is due to a group of blood vessels in the brain not forming correctly before birth. It can cause leaking of the arteries or veins.

  • Drug abuse: Cocaine and other illicit drugs can weaken the blood vessels, leading to brain bleeding. Some prescription drugs also increase the risk of a brain hemorrhage.

Symptoms of a Brain Bleed

Symptoms of a brain hemorrhage vary depending on the location and severity of the bleeding, and how much brain tissue is affected. Symptoms may appear suddenly or gradually over time. Because many of these symptoms overlap with other conditions, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention to diagnose whether you have a brain bleed.

Common symptoms of a brain hemorrhage include:

  • Sudden, severe headache

  • Weakness, numbness or tingling of an arm or leg, often on only one side

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Drowsiness, decreased alertness

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Confusion, including difficulty speaking or understanding speech

  • Changes in vision

  • Problems balancing and walking

  • Sensing a strange taste

  • Seizures, with no previous history of seizures

Brain Hemorrhage Diagnosis

Proper treatment of a brain hemorrhage is dependent on immediate diagnosis. Our team of neurologists and neurosurgeons at The Department of Neurosurgery at Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health use advanced diagnostic tools to confirm that a brain bleed has occurred. In most cases, the cause of a brain bleed is not immediately obvious when the patient arrives to the emergency room of the hospital, unless there is obvious head trauma. If the patient is conscious, a doctor will ask him or her to describe their symptoms.

To diagnose the location and extent of a brain hemorrhage, diagnostic methods may include:

  • Imaging tests: Computed tomography angiography (CTA), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are various tests used by a neurologist to create detailed, three-dimensional images of the brain. These imaging tests show the soft, internal body tissues and structures, as opposed to an X-ray, which shows denser structures, like bones.

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This noninvasive test measures your brain waves, or the electrical activity of the brain.

  • Intracranial pressure monitoring: Detects excess pressure in the brain.

  • Vascular ultrasound: This painless test provides images, similar to the ultrasounds performed on pregnant women, to show the medical team how the blood vessels are working, particularly the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain through the neck.

Brain Hemorrhage Treatment

Brain hemorrhages may be treated through surgical or nonsurgical methods, depending on the cause and severity of the brain bleed and the patient’s overall health. Early treatment includes supportive care in the intensive care unit and strict regulation of the patient’s blood pressure and breathing status. Once the patient is stable, the medical care team will determine how to address the brain bleeding. The decision to perform surgery depends on the size and location of the brain bleed, and not everyone who has a brain hemorrhage will have surgery.

Surgical brain bleed treatment options include:

  • Burr hole: This procedure involves drilling a hole into the skull to allow the excess blood to drain.

  • Craniotomy: During this surgery, a neurosurgeon carefully makes an incision through the scalp and uses a special saw to remove a piece of the skull to allow the brain to expand and relieve pressure created by the bleeding.

  • Removal of arteriovenous malformation (AVM): Removing or plugging off an abnormal mass of blood vessels.

  • External ventricular drain: A catheter is placed into the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain to relieve pressure and decompress the cerebrospinal fluid.

  • Clipping or repairing an aneurysm: Brain aneurysms are a specific type of brain hemorrhage requiring a clip to secure the bleed.

Brain Hemorrhage Prognosis

Most people who experience a brain bleed survive, however, quality of life may be altered. Patients who have had a brain hemorrhage often experience difficulties with memory, speech, or movement, depending on the location of the brain bleed.

After brain hemorrhage surgery, you will stay at the hospital for further treatment and monitoring. Patients are given both inpatient treatment during their hospital stay, as well as outpatient, long-term rehabilitation after discharge. The goal of long-term treatment is to help you regain necessary function for everyday life as much as you can and as soon as possible. Long-term rehabilitation after a brain hemorrhage often includes physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and lifestyle changes/risk modification advice to reduce the risk of having another hemorrhage (for example, your doctor will instruct you to quit smoking, lose weight if you are obese, and/or monitor your blood pressure).

Request an appointment online now or call 833-656-3876.