Update: Infantile acute subdural hematoma


Acute subdural hematoma in infants is distinct from that occurring in older children or adults because of differences in mechanism, injury thresholds, and the frequency with which the question of nonaccidental injury is encountered.

When trauma occur the motor vehicle accidents are the most frequent.

In the series of Loh et al. the most common cause of injury was shaken baby syndrome 1).

The accuracy of the history obtained from the caregivers of infants may be low in severe infantile head trauma. Therefore, medical professionals should treat the mechanism of injury obtained from caregivers as secondary information and investigate for possible abusive head trauma (AHT) in cases with inconsistencies between the history that was taken and the severity of the injury observed 2).

Chronic subdural effusions in infancy may arise from trauma, from various types of meningitis, from severe dehydration, or “idiopathically” 3).


Diagnosis can be made by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging 4).

Large subdural hematoma of the right convexity up to 3 cm thick, which causes severe cerebral compression, with cingulate herniation and transtentorial herniation.

The hematoma shows liquid-liquid levels, with a higher density lower in relation to sedimented hematoma.

Signs of diffuse brain edema.


Early recognition and suitable treatment may improve the outcome of this injury. If treatment is delayed or the condition is undiagnosed, acute subdural hematoma may cause severe morbidity or even fatality 5).

Case series


Medical records and films of 21 cases of infantile acute subdural hematoma were reviewed retrospectively. Diagnosis was made by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. Medical records were reviewed for comparison of age, gender, cause of injury, clinical presentation, surgical management, and outcome.

Twenty-one infants (9 girls and 12 boys) were identified with acute subdural hematoma, with ages ranging from 6 days to 12 months. The most common cause of injury was shaken baby syndrome. The most common clinical presentations were seizure, retinal hemorrhage, and consciousness disturbance. Eight patients with large subdural hematomas underwent craniotomy and evacuation of the blood clot. None of these patients developed chronic subdural hematoma. Thirteen patients with smaller subdural hematomas were treated conservatively. Among these patients, 11 developed chronic subdural hematomas 15 to 80 days (mean = 28 days) after the acute subdural hematomas. All patients with chronic subdural hematomas underwent burr hole and external drainage of the subdural hematoma. At follow-up, 13 (62%) had good recovery, 4 (19%) had moderate disability, 3 (14%) had severe disability, and 1 (5%) died. Based on GCS on admission, one (5%) had mild (GCS 13-15), 12 (57%) had moderate (GCS 9-12), and 8 (38%) had severe (GCS 8 or under) head injury. Good recovery was found in 100% (1/1), 75% (8/12), and 50% (4/8) of the patients with mild, moderate, and severe head injury, respectively. Sixty-three percent (5/8) of those patients undergoing operation for acute subdural hematomas and 62% (8/13) of those patients treated conservatively had good outcomes.

Infantile acute subdural hematoma if treated conservatively or neglected, is an important cause of infantile chronic subdural hematoma. Early recognition and suitable treatment may improve the outcome of this injury. If treatment is delayed or the condition is undiagnosed, acute subdural hematoma may cause severe morbidity or even fatality 6).


Hwang et al., reviewed a total of 16 infant head injury patients under 12 months of age who were treated in from 1989 to 1997. Birth head injury was excluded. The most common age group was 3-5 months. Early seizures were noted in 7 cases, and motor weakness in 6. Three patients with acute intracranial hematoma and another 3 with depressed skull fracture were operated on soon after admission. Chronic subdural hematomas (SDHs) developed in 3 infants. Initial CT scans showed a small amount of SDH that needed no emergency operation. Resolution of the acute SDH and development of subdural hygroma appeared on follow-up CT scans within 2 weeks of injury. Two of these infants developed early seizures. Chronic SDH was diagnosed on the 68th and 111th days after the injuries were sustained, respectively. The third patient was the subject of close follow-up with special attention to the evolution of chronic SDH in view of our experience in the previous 2 cases, and was found to have developed chronic SDH on the 90th day after injury. All chronic SDH patients were successively treated by subduro-peritoneal shunting. In conclusion, the evolution of chronic SDH from acute SDH is relatively common following infantile head injury. Infants with head injuries, especially if they are associated with acute SDH and early development of subdural hygroma, should be carefully followed up with special attention to the possible development of chronic SDH 7).


A retrospective analysis of the infantile acute subdural hematoma was made by Ikeda et al., with special reference to its pathogenesis.

In 11 of 15 cases, the hematomas were bilateral or a contralateral subdural fluid collection was present. In 7 of 11 patients who underwent operation the collection was bloody fluid and/or clotted blood. In 3 patients, a subdural membrane, as seen in adult chronic subdural hematoma, was found. In only 1 patient with unilateral hematoma was clotted blood present without subdural membrane. The thickest collection of clotted blood was in the parasagittal region. It is postulated that in most cases hemorrhage occurs after minor head injury, from the bridging veins near the superior sagittal sinus, into a pre-existing subdural fluid collection such as chronic subdural hematoma or subdural effusion with cranio-cerebral disproportion, and that infants without intracranial disproportion are unlikely to have acute subdural hematoma caused by minor head injury 8).


Aoki et al. report six Japanese cases of child abuse with subdural hematoma and discuss differences from those in the United States. The majority of abused children with subdural hematomas in Japan have suffered direct violence to the face and head, resulting in external signs of trauma. Failure to detect these external traces of trauma, however, might result in an incorrect diagnosis of infantile acute subdural hematoma attributed to accidental trivial head injury. Child abuse with subdural hematoma in the United States is frequently caused by whiplash shaking injury in which external signs of trauma may not be evident. In the United States, retinal hemorrhage and subdural hematoma together suggest child abuse; some cases of infantile acute subdural hematoma might be mistakenly diagnosed as child abuse. Thus, the constellation of retinal bleeding and subdural hematoma combined with the absence of visible signs of trauma is differently interpreted in the United States and Japan 9).


Twenty-six cases of infantile acute subdural hematoma treated between 1972 and 1983 were reviewed. The series was limited to infants with acute subdural hematoma apparently due to minor head trauma without loss of consciousness, and not associated with cerebral contusion. Twenty-three of the patients were boys, and three were girls, showing a clear male predominance. The patients ranged in age between 3 and 13 months, with an average age of 8.1 months, the majority of patients being between 7 and 10 months old. Most of the patients were brought to the hospital because of generalized tonic convulsion which developed soon after minor head trauma, and all patients had retinal and preretinal hemorrhage. The cases were graded into mild, intermediate, and fulminant types, mainly on the basis of the level of consciousness and motor weakness. Treatment for fulminant cases was emergency craniotomy, and that for mild cases was subdural tapping alone. For intermediate cases, craniotomy or subdural tapping was selected according to the contents of the hematoma. The follow-up results included death in two cases, mild physical retardation in one case, and epilepsy in one case. The remaining 23 patients showed normal development. The relationship between computerized tomography (CT) findings and clinical grading was analyzed. Because some mild and intermediate cases could be missed on CT, the importance of noting the characteristic clinical course and of funduscopic examination is stressed 10).

Case reports


An unusual case of ruptured infantile cerebral aneurysm. An eight-month-old infant was delivered to the hospital in poor condition, after convulsions, with no history of trauma. His emergent CT study revealed acute subdural hematoma. The clinical and radiological picture evoked suspicion that the hematoma was of aneurysmal origin. The infant was operated with special preparations and precautions appropriate for aneurysmal surgery, and has shown a good recovery. It is important to consider the possibility of vascular accident in infants with subdural hematoma of nontraumatic origin. A good outcome may be achieved when appropriate preparations are made prior to surgery 11).


Huang et al. the case of an infant with a traumatic acute subdural hematoma that resolved within 65 hours. A 23-month-old boy fell from a height of approximately 10 m. Brain computed tomography disclosed a left subdural hematoma with midline shift. The associated clots resolved spontaneously within 65 hours of the injury. Although they may mimic more clinically significant subdural hematomas, such collections of clots are likely to be located at least partly within the subarachnoid space. Their recognition may influence decisions regarding both surgical evacuation and the likelihood of non-accidental injury. Clinical and radiographic features distinguishing these “disappearing subdural hematomas” from more typical subdural hematomas are discussed 12)

Own case report

A 1 year old , according to anamnesis provided by the parents, they consulted in the last month for cough clinic with low expectoration, nasal congestion, Tº up to 38ºC of 24 hrs evolution. According to an emergency report: the previous week the patient presents right facial edema, of 2 days duration.

Scratch injuries in legs.

In the next days vomiting with progressive decay.

In the following hours after admission coma, respiratory arrest with bradycardia

Large subdural hematoma of the right convexity up to 3 cm thick, which causes severe cerebral compression, with cingulate herniation and transtentorial herniation.

The hematoma shows liquid-liquid levels, with a higher density lower in relation to sedimented hematoma.

Signs of diffuse brain edema.

In the surgical intervention xanthochromia appears at the beginning, later dark red liquid without clots. Later a subdural membrane is seen on the arachnoid surface, very characteristic of chronic subdural hematoma.

1) , 4) , 5) , 6)

Loh JK, Lin CL, Kwan AL, Howng SL. Acute subdural hematoma in infancy. Surg Neurol. 2002 Sep-Oct;58(3-4):218-24. PubMed PMID: 12480224.


Amagasa S, Matsui H, Tsuji S, Moriya T, Kinoshita K. Accuracy of the history of injury obtained from the caregiver in infantile head trauma. Am J Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;34(9):1863-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2016.06.085. PubMed PMID: 27422215.


Amacher AL, Li KT. Indirect trauma as a cause of acute infantile subdural hematomas. Can Med Assoc J. 1973 Jun 23;108(12):1530. PubMed PMID: 4714878; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1941542.


Hwang SK, Kim SL. Infantile head injury, with special reference to the development of chronic subdural hematoma. Childs Nerv Syst. 2000 Sep;16(9):590-4. PubMed PMID: 11048634.


Ikeda A, Sato O, Tsugane R, Shibuya N, Yamamoto I, Shimoda M. Infantile acute subdural hematoma. Childs Nerv Syst. 1987;3(1):19-22. PubMed PMID: 3594464.


Aoki N, Masuzawa H. Subdural hematomas in abused children: report of six cases from Japan. Neurosurgery. 1986 Apr;18(4):475-7. PubMed PMID: 3703222.


Aoki N, Masuzawa H. Infantile acute subdural hematoma. Clinical analysis of 26 cases. J Neurosurg. 1984 Aug;61(2):273-80. PubMed PMID: 6737052.


Adeleye AO, Shoshan Y, Cohen JE, Spektor S. Ruptured middle cerebral artery aneurysm in an infant presenting as acute subdural hematoma: a case report. Pediatr Neurosurg. 2008;44(5):397-401. doi: 10.1159/000149908. PubMed PMID: 18703887.


Huang SH, Lee HM, Lin CK, Kwan AL, Howng SL, Loh JK. Rapid resolution of infantile acute subdural hematoma: a case report. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2005 Jun;21(6):291-4. PubMed PMID: 16035574.

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