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Why Brain Bleeds Like President Carter’s Are so Serious

November 19, 2019

A series of recent falls sent former President Jimmy Carter to the hospital for surgery to relieve pressure caused by bleeding on his brain. One fall led to the president fracturing his pelvis, another caused him to hit his head (requiring 14 stitches) and a third resulted in hip replacement surgery.

A variety of brain bleeds can take place. An intracranial hemorrhage is when bleeding occurs inside the skull. Bleeding around the brain is a cerebral hemorrhage. And bleeding caused by a torn blood vessel in the brain is a hemorrhagic stroke. None are to be taken lightly.

What former President  Carter experienced was a subdural hematoma, which means the blood causing the pressure was between the brain and skull, and not actually on the brain itself. The incident may be referred to as a traumatic brain injury (or TBI for short).

This is an injury that can be common among our more elderly patients, especially if they happen to be on blood thinner pills (and they often are). As we grow older, everything in our bodies tends to shrink, creating more room between the brain and skull, increasing the possibility for these kinds of mishaps.

It’s not Always Just a Headache

A brain bleed isn’t a situation to be taken lightly. Anytime there is bleeding on the brain, it can be a serious condition, one that can result in everything from headaches and memory problems to seizures and paralysis. These are symptoms to watch for that may be indicative of this sort of injury. Others might include nausea, vomiting or weakness due to hemorrhaging on one side of the body. Patients can sometimes become very lethargic. All are typical signs that we look for when dealing with a subdural hematoma or intracranial hemorrhage.

If not properly treated in time, a brain bleed can ultimately be fatal. It is a serious condition to be taken seriously.

Under Pressure

With Florida being a popular snowbird destination, physicians at Orlando Health do a lot of these procedures.

Often by the time a patient has been admitted, the bleeding has stopped or clotted, but not always (and the latter is a much more serious problem). As medical professionals, our number one goal is to take pressure off the brain in this situation, as it can be fatal. We need to evacuate the blood that has accumulated there and alleviate the pressure that has built up.

In short, we do all we can to stop the bleeding as soon as we possibly can.

Resting Is Healing

The older someone gets, the higher their risk factors are. There is so much more that needs to be taken into consideration. Because former President Carter is 95 years old (our oldest living U.S. president!), he’s automatically part of a higher morbidity and mortality rate. Being on anesthesia for a long period of time during an operation, experiencing a heart attack or suffering cardiac issues are all serious situations.

Following a brain bleed, rest is highly recommended, up to four weeks or more. Patients should take it easy, relax and not do anything overly strenuous. This aids in their healing process. Of course, how much rest someone actually needs does depend on how sick they initially were. If a headache led to their hospital stay, they often do very well after surgery. If they were very sick, on the other hand, there is a possibility they won’t do as well.

Some general advice to follow is this: The earlier someone is able to get treated for this condition, the better.

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