Subarachnoid hemorrhage

Alternative Names

Hemorrhage – subarachnoid

Definition of Subarachnoid hemorrhage

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. This area is called the subarachnoid space.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Subarachnoid hemorrhage can be caused by:

Symptoms

The main symptom is a severe headache that starts suddenly and is often worse near the back of the head. Patients often describe it as the “worst headache ever” and unlike any other type of headache pain. The headache may start after a popping or snapping feeling in the head.

Signs and tests

A physical exam may show a stiff neck due to irritation by blood of the meninges, the tissues that cover the brain. Except those in a deep coma, persons with a subarachnoid hemorrhage may resist neck movement.

Treatment

The goals of treatment are to save your life, repair the cause of bleeding, relieve symptoms, and prevent complications such as permanent brain damage (stroke).

Expectations (prognosis)

How well a patient with subarachnoid hemorrhage does depends on a number of different factors, including the location and extent of the bleeding, as well as any complications. Older age and more severe symptoms from the beginning are associated with a poorer prognosis.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 3/26/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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