What we know about the Jeopardy! host’s condition |
What’s subdural hematoma, among the deadliest of head injuries?
BELOW: DON’T PUT YOUR HEALTH IN JEOPARDY – HOW TO PREVENT A SUBDURAL HEMATOMA
(HEADLINE HEALTH) Falling is the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide and is a major cause of personal injury, especially for the elderly.
Falls in older adults are an important class of preventable injuries.
Learning to avoid falls can save your life or that of a loved one.
Begin with learning about the traumatic brain injury suffered by Alex Trebek as the result of a fall, then keep reading to learn more about the condition and how you can avoid it.
(Ariel Zilber, Dailymail.com) On December 15, 77-year-old Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after experiencing complications from a fall in October in which he hit his head.
It wasn’t the first health scare the popular host has experienced in recent years. Six years ago he suffered a mild heart attack.
Trebek underwent surgery on December 16 to remove a subdural hematoma, which occurs when there is a build-up of bleeding on the brain usually after a head injury.
(Keep reading and learn how you can prevent this often fatal condition from happening to you and your loved ones.)
Two days after the surgery, which doctors deemed a success, Trebek went home.
Trebek’s fans are relieved to learn that he is expected to make a full recovery. Read the full story at DailyMail.
How you can prevent deadly falls and brain injuries
The real value is in what we can learn from their experiences to protect our own health.
So what exactly is subdural hematoma? How does it happen, and how can it be prevented?
A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood between the covering of the brain (dura) and the surface of the brain.
A subdural hematoma is most often the result of a severe head injury. This type of subdural hematoma is among the deadliest of all head injuries.
The bleeding fills the brain area very rapidly, compressing brain tissue. This often results in brain injury and may lead to death.
Subdural hematomas can also occur after a minor head injury. The amount of bleeding is smaller and occurs more slowly.
This type of subdural hematoma is often seen in older adults.
These may go unnoticed for many days to weeks, and are called chronic subdural hematomas.
With any subdural hematoma, tiny veins between the surface of the brain and its outer covering (the dura) stretch and tear, allowing blood to collect.
In older adults, the veins are often already stretched because of brain shrinkage (atrophy) and are more easily injured.
Some subdural hematomas occur without cause (spontaneously).
The following increase the risk for a subdural hematoma:
- Medicines that thin the blood (such as warfarin or aspirin)
- Long-term alcohol use
- Medical conditions that make your blood clot poorly
- Repeated head injury, such as from falls
- Very young or very old age
How to Prevent a Fall
At any age, people can make changes to lower their risk of falling. Some tips to help prevent falls outdoors are:
- Use a cane or walker
- Wear rubber-soled shoes so you don’t slip
- Walk on grass when sidewalks are slick
- Put salt or kitty litter on icy sidewalks
Some ways to help prevent falls indoors are:
- Keep rooms free of clutter, especially on floors
- Use plastic for carpet runners
- Wear low-heeled shoes
- Do not walk in socks, stockings, or slippers
- Be sure rugs have skid-proof backs or are tacked to the floor
- Be sure stairs are well lit and have rails on both sides
- Put grab bars on bathroom walls near tub, shower, and toilet
- Use a nonskid bath mat in the shower or tub
- Keep a flashlight next to your bed
- Use a sturdy stepstool with a handrail and wide steps
- Add more lights in rooms
- Buy a cordless phone so that you don’t have to rush to the phone when it rings and so that you can call for help if you fall.
You can also do exercises to improve your balance. While holding the back of a chair, sink, or counter:
- Stand on one leg at a time for a minute and then slowly increase the time. Try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding on.
- Stand on your toes for a count of 10, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 10.
- Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Do not move your shoulders or feet. Repeat five times.
Depending on the size of the hematoma and where it presses on the brain, any of the following symptoms may occur:
- Confused or slurred speech
- Problems with balance or walking
- Lack of energy or confusion
- Seizures or loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or numbness
- Vision problems
Exams and Tests
Get medical help right away after a head injury. Do not delay. Older adults should receive medical care if they show signs of memory problems or mental decline, even if they don’t seem to have an injury.
The health care provider will likely order a brain imaging test, such as a CT or MRI scan, if there are any of the symptoms listed above.
A subdural hematoma is an emergency condition.
Emergency surgery may be needed to reduce pressure within the brain. This may involve drilling a small hole in the skull to drain any blood and relieve pressure on the brain. Large hematomas or solid blood clots may need to be removed through a procedure called a craniotomy, which creates a larger opening in the skull.
Medicines that may be used depend on the type of subdural hematoma, how severe the symptoms are, and how much brain damage there is. has occurred. Medicines may include:
- Diuretics (water pills) and corticosteroids to reduce swelling
- Anti-seizure drugs to control or prevent seizures
Outlook depends on the type and location of head injury, the size of the blood collection, and how soon treatment is started.
Acute subdural hematomas have high rates of death and brain injury. Chronic subdural hematomas have better outcomes in most cases. Symptoms often go away after the blood collection is drained. Physical therapy is sometimes needed to help the person get back to their usual level of functioning.
Seizures often occur at the time the hematoma forms, or up to months or years after treatment. But medicines can help control the seizures.
Complications that may result include:
- Brain herniation (pressure on the brain severe enough to cause coma and death)
- Persistent symptoms such as memory loss, dizziness, headache, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating
- Short-term or permanent weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking
When to Contact a Medical Professional
A subdural hematoma is a medical emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to an emergency room after a head injury. Do not delay.
Spinal injuries often occur with head injuries, so try to keep the person’s neck still if you must move them before help arrives.
Always use safety equipment at work and play to reduce your risk of a head injury. For example, use hard hats, bicycle or motorcycle helmets, and seat belts. Older individuals should be particularly careful to avoid falls.
Subdural hemorrhage; Traumatic brain injury – subdural hematoma; TBI – subdural hematoma; Head injury – subdural hematoma. (SOURCES: U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health)
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