Anatomy Physiology

What is an intracerebral hemorrhage? Anyone with a passing familiarity with medical terms or latin can see that it has something to do with blood and the brain, but this type of hemorrhage is particularly serious, and needs to be understood fully.

Briefly, an intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of cranial hemorrhage where bleeding takes place within the brain itself, and is generally caused during a stroke or by trauma to the brain. An intracerebral hemorrhage is incredibly bad news, and is taken extremely seriously – like any intracranial hemorrhage, bleeding into the brain tissue can increase intracranial pressure, and this can be fatal.

This kind of hemorrhage is one of the biggest causes of strokes, and accounts for between one and two thirds of stroke patients. Like other forms of hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage can be caused by very high blood pressure, but bleeding within tumours, and depressed skull fractures can also cause intracranial bleeding.

In addition to high blood pressure or brain trauma, diabetes increases the risk of an intracerebral hemorrhage, as does menopause, smoking and even drinking two or more alcholic drinks a day.

Luckily, intracerebral hemorrhages are relatively easy to diagnose, as they tend to show up clearly on CT scans, where the blood is brighter than the surrounding cerebral tissue.

Once an intracerebral hemorrhage has been diagnosed, there are several routes to treat the hematoma with medication, including the administration of antacids to prevent gastric ulcers which are associated with intracerebral hemorrhages in some way which is not yet wholly understood. Surgical intervention may however be required if the hematoma is larger than an inch or so. When a catheter being inserted into your brain is the ‘non-invasive’ option, you know that things have become very serious indeed.

As far back as prehistoric times, of course, trephination was practised to relieve intracranial pressure, and may have been used on humanity’s earliest victims of intracranial hemorrhages – although the diagnosis would have been non-existent, bone remains from as far back as the Neolithic suggest many patients survived this procedure. With the mortality rate for intracerebral hemorrhages at around 40%, this is one condition that highlights the limitations of medical science, in spite of all the breakthroughs we have made.

The long and the short of it is that if you or a friend or family member have a CT scan which indicates an intracerebral hemorrhage, you must seek treatment immediately to maximise the chances of survival and recovery.