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Why Scalp Hematoma and Bruising Indicate a Serious Problem

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Mr Skully

Mr Skully

What Is a Scalp Hematoma?

A scalp hematoma is a collection of blood (either flowing or clotted) from ruptured blood vessels that will then collect in the area of space and tissue between the skull and skin. Although the hematoma and bruising are on the outside of the brain and cannot create any pressure or problems in the skull, it is still a strong indication that there has been some head trauma that needs to be investigated and treated.

If a scalp hematoma is caused by head trauma and the person is not exhibiting any symptoms, then it is still advisable for the individual to seek medical attention. The brain may still have suffered damage without any problems manifesting straight away. The individual will be tested through a variety of neurological exams, and may also undergo scanning procedures in order to rule out internal bleeding.

On the other hand, if a person has experienced head trauma and is exhibiting even one of the symptoms listed below, then they should be checked out by an emergency physician immediately. It is possible that there is bleeding in the brain or another type of trauma that may require immediate medical attention. Brain trauma is a very serious condition, and without the right treatment, the patient can experience long-term problems or even die from their complications.

My Experience

I have a genetic blood disorder where I have issues with clotting—and I bruise very easily due to the anticoagulant medication. Some time ago, I suffered from a scalp hematoma as a result of a car crash. The other car was being driven by a drunk driver who thought they needed to enter my lane while I was still there. Thankfully I was able to brake enough to avoid any fatalities, but the accident left me with a nasty bump on the head, a concussion, and a few other injuries. My doctors were able to drain the hematoma and keep a close eye on me to prevent any further complications, given my medical history. During my stay in the hospital I picked up a few things, which I have fleshed out in this article.

First Aid

Getting the right first aid is crucial in preventing any complications or long-term problems further down the line. If you don't know what to do in an emergency situation then there are plenty of books and first aid kits that will teach you what to do. First aid treatment is often the difference between someone keeping their life or dying at the scene of the accident.

For practical courses you can contact your local community, council offices, and medical institutions for events you can attend.

Symptoms That Need Medical Attention

If the head injury is mild and does not require immediate medical attention the person may find that they develop the classic 'bump on the head': for example bumping your head on a door or table. This 'bump on the head' is caused by swelling and inflammation at the injury site. The person may also find that the area is warm, red and tender to the touch.

Inflammation and heat occur around an injury to protect it from further harm. When the injury happens, the body sends out inflammation markers so that the surrounding tissue becomes flooded with fluid. This reaction provides a cushion for the injured area so that it has restricted movement and cannot be touched or prodded by accident.

Over time the hematoma and inflammation will reduce in size and become softer as the body breaks down the clot and remove the excess protective fluid. The colour will also change from a purple-blue to a yellow-brown as the fluid and blood drains away from the site.

DON'T Ignore These Symptoms:

If a person experiences the following symptoms, then they must be taken to the emergency room immediately:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss: not being able to recount simple memories or information such as date of birth
  • Confusion: not knowing who they are or where they are
  • Muscle weakness: not being able to hold their arms out straight in front of them or not being able to stand up by themselves
  • Severe headaches and intolerance to light
  • Seizures including tremors
  • Vomiting, especially if there is blood in the vomit
  • Slurred speech or a dropping face
  • Visual disturbances: seeing lights or things that aren't there

These are also symptoms of a stroke, so that must be taken into consideration as well. Please watch the below video for more advice on head injuries.

Source: eMedicineHealth

This is what a hematoma looks like on a stomach. It will look similar on the head, but with a more pronounced bump.

This is what a hematoma looks like on a stomach. It will look similar on the head, but with a more pronounced bump.

How Does the Body Deal With an Injury?

The human body is a wonderful thing that is able to react incredibly quickly to trauma. As soon as a blood vessel is ruptured, the body sends off a signal to the blood clotting factors, which move in to plug up the break in the vessel wall. Once the initial plug is in place, the body will create fibres called fibrin which is like a long thin string which forms together to create a mesh over the plug to keep it in place. The mesh then allows the body to repair the vessel wall without losing any more blood.

Once the vessel has been repaired, the body will send out signals for the clot to be broken down. There are proteins in the blood which will hook onto the clot and take it away to be reabsorbed into the body. Depending on how big this clot is will determine how long it will take to reabsorb the clot into the body. This last aspect of clotting is where my body cannot function; it will continue to grow a clot and not break it down if left to its own devices, which is why my scalp hematoma needed to be drained as I would not be able to reabsorb it back into my body.

The video below provides an interesting animation which shows how the body deals with broken blood vessels, so take some time to watch it and learn how your body responds.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If medical advice is sought, then a full examination of the person will be done. If the physician suspects trauma to the brain a MRI or CT scan will be performed to rule out any bleeding or damage.

If there is bleeding in the brain, then surgery will have to be done to stop the bleed and clear the blood/fluid to release the pressure on the brain. To the right is an x-ray of a normal brain and blood vessels, if any of that x-ray is obstructed, blurred, or dark, when it shouldn't be then immediate action, must be taken.

If the scans show a clear brain (no bleeding or damage), the person will be put under supervision and will be told a series of steps they can take to reduce bruising. The photo to the right is a perfect example of a healthy brain with suitable blood flow.

It is normal to experience bruising after head trauma, and it will take some time for it to get better. To speed up the recovery process I've found that using topical arnica on the area helps the body to dissolve the pooled blood quicker. Make sure that you check with your health care provider or pharmacist first, though, before trying any new products for the first time, as some people will have other medical problems that will react badly with arnica.

Source: My doctors at the hospital explaining the possibilities after they had scanned my head.

Medical Disclaimer

Please remember that I am not a medical professional, and this article is for informational purposes only. It should not replace the attention of a medical professional. If you have any immediate health concerns that you think may be life-threatening, you should call the emergency services straight away and request an ambulance.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Bobby


DONNA on May 17, 2018:

I was assaulted with an empty tequila bottle. It is almost a month and have been to the ER twice. Huge hematoma keeps opening up and causes massive bleeding. Last visit, ER MD stated he did not know how to handle this ?!!? Still present

jamie on March 29, 2018:

I had head injury when I was 4 in 1984 tonka truck 2nd story at top of stairs hit directly on head n got a blister typ halo on top of head was not poped or drained but changed way of mind

Hal06 on February 21, 2017:

Yep had a scalp hemotoma that led to a tier 3 concussion. Dr at ER treated me awful tho bc I'd fallen while intoxicated. Said no whiplash or concussion sent me home. Thank God for my chiropractor that's specialized in sports medicine. Took 2 months to recover. I still get migraines

Bobby (author) from U.K on January 14, 2013:

Normally a scalp hematoma is from a head injury rather than damage to the lungs. If there has been brain damage there is a possibility that it could affect the lungs but only a doctor would be able to tell you that.

Ninad on January 14, 2013:

Is it possible scalp Hematoma can causes Lungs failure???