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Deep intracerebral hemorrhage

Contents of this page:


Cerebral aneurysm
Cerebral aneurysm
Arteries of the brain
Arteries of the brain

Alternative Names    Return to top

Intracranial bleed

Definition    Return to top

Deep intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of stroke due to bleeding within the deep structures of the brain. These structures include the thalamus, basal ganglia, pons, and cerebellum.

See also:

Causes    Return to top

Deep intracerebral hemorrhage can affect any person regardless of age, sex, or race, though it is more common in older people. It may be caused by:

In some cases, no cause can be found.

Bleeding in the brain irritates the brain tissues, causing swelling (cerebral edema). The blood may collect into a mass (hematoma). Both swelling and a mass of blood within the brain put increasing pressure on the brain tissues and eventually destroy them.

Risk factors for deep intracerebral hemorrhage include:

Symptoms    Return to top

The symptoms vary depending on the location of the bleed and the amount of brain tissue affected. Symptoms most commonly develop suddenly, without warning, often during activity. They may be episodic (occurring and then stopping) or slowly get worse over time. Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

A neurological exam may suggest increased intracranial pressure or decreased brain function. The person's specific symptoms can help tell which part of the brain is affected. For example, sudden nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, headache, and a rapid decrease in consciousness can mean a bleed in the brain.

An eye exam may show swelling of the optic nerve from pressure in the brain, or there may be changes in eye movement. Abnormal reflexes may be present.

Tests may include:

Treatment    Return to top

Deep intracerebral hemorrhage is a severe condition that requires prompt medical attention. It can develop quickly into a life-threatening situation.

Treatment depends on the location, cause, and extent of the hemorrhage.

Surgery may be needed, especially if there is bleeding in the back part of the brain called the cerebellum. Surgery may also be done to repair or remove structures causing the bleed such as a cerebral aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation.

Medicines used may include:

Other treatments may be recommended, depending on your overall health and symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outlook depends on the size of the hematoma and the amount of brain swelling.

Recovery may occur completely, or there may be some permanent loss of brain function. Death is possible, and may quickly occur despite prompt medical treatment.

Medications, surgery, or other treatments may have severe side effects.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Any type of intracerebral hemorrhage, or "brain attack," is a medical emergency.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if other symptoms of deep intracerebral hemorrhage develop. Emergency symptoms include:

Call your health care provider if severe headache with nausea, vomiting, decreased vision, numbness, or tingling occurs.

Prevention    Return to top

Treatment or control of underlying disorders may reduce the risk of developing intracerebral hemorrhage. High blood pressure should be treated. Do not stop taking medications unless told to do so by your doctor.

Always use safety equipment and take safety precautions in sports, recreation, and work. For example, use hard hats, bicycle or motorcycle helmets, and seat belts. Never dive into water if you do not know the depth of the water or if there may be rocks under the surface.

If you are taking a blood thinner (such as Coumadin), you will need to have regular blood tests to make sure that the medicines aren't making bleeding too likely and increasing your risk for hemorrhaging. Follow your doctor's instructions on how to take the medicine and when to have blood tests for monitoring the medication.

References    Return to top

Zivin JA. Hemorrhagic cerebrovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 432.

Goldstein LB. Prevention and management of stroke. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders;2007:chap 58.

Update Date: 9/13/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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