Skip to Main Content

Brain Hemorrhage

What is a brain hemorrhage?

A brain hemorrhage is a kind of stroke, where there's bleeding in or around your brain. There are different names for brain hemorrhages according to where they occur:

  • Intracranial hemorrhage - Bleeding anywhere inside your skull is called an intracranial hemorrhage.
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage - Bleeding within your brain is known as an intracerebral hemorrhage.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage - Bleeding inside the area between your brain and the tissue that covers it (the subarachnoid space) is a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Subdural or epidural hematomas - These are types of brain hemorrhage where the bleeding is either above (epidural) or below (subdural) the brain's covering (dura).  People who have a brain hemorrhage often experience symptoms of a stroke. These include weakness on one side of your body, numbness, difficulty speaking, problems with walking, and falling down. Around 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic, which means they're due to a brain hemorrhage.

What causes a brain hemorrhage?

Causes of brain hemorrhages include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) - High blood pressure weakens your artery walls, which can then rupture. If this occurs, blood pools in your brain, causing symptoms of a stroke.
  • Brain aneurysms - Brain aneurysms are weak spots in an artery that balloon out and may rupture, flooding the brain with blood.
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) - An AVM is an abnormal link between your arteries and veins that’s usually present at birth.  
  • Drug abuse - Illegal drugs like cocaine and some prescription medications can weaken the blood vessels in your brain and lead to bleeding.
  • Trauma - Subdural and epidural hematomas often result from traumatic brain injuries. Sometimes people with cancer that has spread into their brain (metastasized) develop brain hemorrhages in the affected areas, and elderly people may have amyloid protein deposits in their blood vessels that cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

What treatments are available for brain hemorrhages?

If you have bleeding inside your brain, you need close monitoring to prevent potentially life-threatening outcomes. Treatment focuses on stabilizing your blood pressure. You might also need to go on a ventilator (breathing assistance machine) to ensure that your brain and other organs get enough oxygen.

Blood oxygen levels, heart rhythms, and pressure inside your skull may need monitoring. Medications can help reduce swelling in the area where the hemorrhage occurs, which keeps your blood pressure at a healthier level and prevents seizures. You might also need pain medication if you're conscious.

Once you're stable, your provider can address the underlying cause of your brain hemorrhage. This could involve surgery, but not in all cases.