Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Intracranial bleeding in patients with traumatic brain injury: A prognostic study

Pablo Perel1*, Ian Roberts1, Omar Bouamra2, Maralyn Woodford2, Jane Mooney2 and Fiona Lecky2

Author Affiliations

1 Epidemiology and Population Health Department, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

2 Trauma Audit and Research Network, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, School of Translational Medicine, University Of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Emergency Medicine 2009, 9:15  doi:10.1186/1471-227X-9-15

Published: 3 August 2009



Intracranial bleeding (IB) is a common and serious consequence of traumatic brain injury (TBI). IB can be classified according to the location into: epidural haemorrhage (EDH) subdural haemorrhage (SDH) intraparenchymal haemorrhage (IPH) and subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH). Studies involving repeated CT scanning of TBI patients have found that IB can develop or expand in the 48 hours after injury. If IB enlarges after hospital admission and larger bleeds have a worse prognosis, this would provide a therapeutic rationale for treatments to prevent increase in the extent of bleeding. We analysed data from the Trauma Audit & Research Network (TARN), a large European trauma registry, to evaluate the association between the size of IB and mortality in patients with TBI.


We analysed 13,962 patients presenting to TARN participating hospitals between 2001 and 2008 with a Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) less than 15 at presentation or any head injury with Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) severity code 3 and above. The extent of intracranial bleeding was determined by the AIS code. Potential confounders were age, presenting Glasgow Coma Score, mechanism of injury, presence and nature of other brain injuries, and presence of extra-cranial injuries. The outcomes were in-hospital mortality and haematoma evacuation. We conducted a multivariable logistic regression analysis to evaluate the independent effect of large and small size of IB, in comparison with no bleeding, on patient outcomes. We also conducted a multivariable logistic regression analysis to assess the independent effect on mortality of large IB in comparison with small IB.


Almost 46% of patients had at some type of IB. Subdural haemorrhages were present in 30% of the patients, with epidural and intraparenchymal present in approximately 22% each. After adjusting for potential confounders, we found that large IB, wherever located, was associated with increased mortality in comparison with no bleeding. We also found that large IB was associated with an increased risk of mortality in comparison with small IB. The odds ratio for mortality for large SDH, IPH and EDH, in comparison with small bleeds, were: 3.41 (95% CI: 2.68-4.33), 3.47 (95% CI: 2.26-5.33) and 2.86 (95% CI: 1.86-4.38) respectively.


Large EDH, SDH and IPH are associated with a substantially higher probability of hospital mortality in comparison with small IB. However, the limitations of our data, such as the large proportion of missing data and lack of data on other confounding factors, such as localization of the bleeding, make the results of this report only explanatory. Future studies should also evaluate the effect of IB size on functional outcomes.