Do Age and Anticoagulants Affect the Natural History of Acute Subdural Hematomas? Arch Emerg Med Crit Care

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Acute subdural hematoma is a serious complication following traumatic brain injury. Large volume hematomas or those with underlying brain injury can cause mass effect, midline shift, and eventually herniation of the brain. Acute subdural hematomas in the young are associated with high-energy trauma and often have underlying contusions, while acute subdural hematomas in the elderly are associated with minor trauma and an absence of underlying contusions, even though the elderly are more likely to be on anticoagulants or anti-platelet therapy. In the young patients with high impact injuries the hematomas tend to be small and the underlying brain injury and swelling is responsible for the increased intracranial pressure and midline shift. In the elderly, the injuries are low impact (e.g fall from standing), the underlying brain is intact, and the volume of the hematoma itself produces symptoms. In addition the use of anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents in the elderly population has been thought to be a poor prognostic indicator and is considered to be responsible for larger hematomas and poor outcome. When managed conservatively, acute subdural hematomas can sometimes progress to chronic subdural hematoma formation, further enlargement, seizures, and progressive midline shift. Another potential difference in the young and the elderly is brain atrophy, which increases the potential space to accommodate a larger hematoma. It is not known if these two groups differ in other ways that might have implications for treatment or prognosis. In this paper, we investigate the clinical course of 80 patients admitted to our institution with acute subdural hematomas, to identify differences in patients above or below the age of 65 years. The natural progression/resolution of acute subdural hematomas was mapped by measuring volume expansion/regression over time. In this retrospective chart review, we investigated clinical baseline metrics and subsequent volumetric expansion outcomes between patients < 65 years old (N=44) and those > 65 years old (N=36). Volume was estimated by the ABC/2 method. We observed a statistically significant difference between groups in use of anticoagulants χ2 =40.305 with p < 0.001, corrective platelet administration χ2 =19.380 with p < 0.001, gender χ2 =14.573 with p < 0.001, and Glasgow Coma Scale with χ2 =23.125 (p=0.026). Overall outcomes were similar in the two groups. Younger patients on average had worse presenting GCS scores, but recovered comparable to older patients. No significant difference in rate of volume expansion, resolution time, or need for surgical treatment was seen between these two groups. We conclude that the initial volume, size, and severity of subdural hematoma determined by the Glasgow Coma Scale score is more likely to predict surgery or future expansion than age of the patient. Patients on oral anti-coagulants that are given appropriate medical reversal agents early do quite well and no impact on the eventual outcome could be demonstrated. Further work is needed to establish better predictors of future volume expansion, and progression to chronic subdural hematoma based on improved severity scales.