This page is intended as a patient/relative information source only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
What Is A Cerebral Contusion?
Cerebral contusion is the medical term to describe bruising of the brain. Contusions usually result from traumatic head injury. The brain can become damaged as a direct result of a blow to the head or as the opposite side of the brain is forced against the side of the skull due to impact. Swelling (oedema) raises the pressure in the head (intracranial pressure) and because the skull is a hard bony box, the delicate brain tissue can become compressed. Inflammation occurs as a result of injury anywhere in the body and in the brain it can cause blood vessels to constrict and reduce oxygen supply to the brain which can reduces brain function and cause brain damage.
What Causes A Cerebral Contusion?
Cerebral contusions usually result from a head injury such as a car crash, assault or sporting injury. This causes bruising to the brain.
How Is A Cerebral Contusion Diagnosed?
The symptoms of cerebral contusion can vary from non-specific symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fits and irritability to becoming confused and unconscious. They also depend on the area of the brain damaged as different areas control different functions such as sight, speech and movement. Due to these varied symptoms a definitive diagnosis is made via imaging techniques such as computerised tomography (CT) scan or by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If a patient has experienced severe trauma to the head, medical advice should be sought.
How Are Cerebral Contusions Treated?
Often cerebral contusions can be treated ‘conservatively’; this means that the doctors and nurses can look after a patient on the intensive care unit, high dependency unit or ward and treat the symptoms of the problem, without performing surgery to remove a contusion. The aggressiveness of treatment will depend on the individual patient’s medical needs. In severe cases, it can involve being kept asleep for some time and lots of drugs being given through various different lines, whereas in milder cases it may be appropriate merely to observe patients for a short period of time on one of the wards.
Surgery is sometimes needed if there is a lot of swelling and pressure on the brain because of the contusions. In these circumstances, a craniotomy may be required (making a trap door in the skull to get access to the brain) to remove the bruised region, or a craniectomy may alternatively be considered (removing part of the skull bone completely to relieve pressure in the head).
What Is The Outlook?
The outlook for people who have experienced cerebral contusions depends on lots of factors, the most important being how serious their injury is. Many people have contusions and make a complete recovery; however others can have more serious long term problems including fits and some degree of permanent brain damage. The most serious forms of cerebral contusion can pose a threat to a patient’s life but each case is different and the medical and nursing teams in the neurosurgery department will be able to give more advice on how serious an injury is.
Page Author: Nici Reece, March 2011