Symptoms of subdural haematoma 

The symptoms of an acute subdural haematoma may develop rapidly after a severe head injury. Symptoms of a chronic subdural haematoma can develop within two to three weeks after a minor head injury.

Symptoms of a subdural haematoma include:

  • headache
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • confusion
  • personality changes – such as being unusually aggressive or having rapid mood changes
  • decreased levels of consciousness – such as finding it difficult to keep your eyes open
  • speech problems – e.g. slurring words or difficulty saying words
  • impaired vision or double vision
  • paralysis on one side of the body
  • loss of consciousness

When to seek emergency medical treatment

Always seek emergency medical treatment after a significant head injury. You should go immediately to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital, or dial 999 to request an ambulance.

severe head injury could be the result of a fall, violent assault or motor vehicle accident.

Increased risk

A number of risk factors make a person more vulnerable to a minor head injury resulting in a chronic subdural haematoma.

These are:

  • being 65 years old or over
  • having a previous history of brain surgery
  • having a condition that makes you bleed more easily, such as haemophilia, or having a condition that makes your blood more prone to clotting, such as thrombophilia
  • taking anticoagulant medication to prevent blood clots, such as warfarin or aspirin

Read more about these risk factors and the causes of a subdural haematoma.

Symptoms that could suggest people in these groups may have developed a subdural haematoma include:

  • previous loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • not remembering events that occur before or after the injury
  • persistent headaches
  • persistent vomiting
  • changes in behaviour, such as irritability, being easily distracted or having no interest in the outside world  

If you or someone in your care has any of the above signs, symptoms or risk factors, you or they should go to the nearest hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) department to seek immediate medical attention.  

Page last reviewed: 31/08/2013

Next review due: 31/08/2015