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What is a Cerebral Contusion?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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A cerebral contusion is a bruised area of brain tissue. Contusions result from head trauma, such as being hit with a blunt object or suffering the impact of a direct fall onto a hard surface. Tiny localized blood vessels break open and release blood into the affected area, creating an appearance similar to that of a bruise elsewhere on the body. The symptoms associated with a cerebral contusion depend on the severity and location of the injury, though most patients experience some degree of head pain, confusion, and nausea. An individual who suffers any type of head injury should seek immediate medical care to receive the appropriate treatment.

Doctors recognize two basic types of cerebral contusion, known as coup and countercoup injuries. A coup contusion is a direct result of a blow to the head, appearing at the site of the impact. A countercoup contusion forms on the opposite side of the head as the original site of impact, as a result of the brain sloshing from the deceleration force and coming into contact with the skull. Coup contusions are common in boxers, football players, and other athletes who are at risk of suffering a direct blow to the head. Countercoup contusions are more often seen when high velocity movement is suddenly halted, as can occur during a motor vehicle accident or a skiing spill.

Depending on the severity of the initial impact, an individual who acquires a cerebral contusion may feel nauseous, disoriented, or even lose consciousness. Even mild trauma can potentially lead to brain damage, and contusions are prone to spread and swell. Swelling, if not treated, can cause an increase in intracranial pressure that results in severe pain. Most head injuries are immediately noticeable following traumatic events, and victims should be brought to an emergency room as soon as possible for thorough evaluations.

Once admitted into an emergency room or hospital with head trauma, a patient is typically given pain medication and visited by a neurologist. The specialist can gauge the severity of the injury and check for signs of a cerebral contusion by taking diagnostic imaging screens of the brain and skull. A computerized tomography scan can help the doctor identify signs of bruising or other abnormalities that may require immediate medical or surgical intervention.

Most cerebral contusions do not pose long-term problems, and doctors decide to simply administer pain management medications and conduct frequent checkups. Surgery is necessary in the event of severe brain swelling to relieve intracranial pressure. Finally, head injuries that result in skull fractures often require surgical intervention to manually excise or repair damaged areas of bone and brain tissue.

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Discussion Comments
By anon115243 — On Oct 01, 2010

My son had swine flu last year and was in ITU. His lungs were not functioning so he was put in the prone position for 15 hours straight, he was sedated and paralyzed. Being in the prone position you have to be paralyzed, and when the doctors turned my son to supine (on his front) he had a huge hematoma on his forehead. His face was swollen and he was also ventilated, His lips were split badly, and his nose had blood running from it and he looked a mess.

The hospital wouldn't give us any explanation for this. he was in a very bad way and was flown to a london hospital to go on ecmo. What i want to know is, how did he get a hematoma on his forehead when he was in ITU? How could this happen? He's 35 years old, is alive on oxygen and has massive scars on his face. he only went in with swine flu.

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