Parkridge Health System - August 30, 2019

A brain bleed (also known as a brain hemorrhage) occurs when there is a ruptured blood vessel that creates bleeding in and around the brain. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, approximately 30,000 Americans experience a brain aneurysm rupture each year. How do you know if you could be one of them?

David Wiles, MD, neurosurgeon at Parkridge Medical Center, sat down with us to discuss brain bleeds and how you can recognize the symptoms as soon as possible in order to obtain medical care and treatment.

What is a brain bleed?

Dr. Wiles: A "brain bleed" is simply bleeding into the tissues of the brain. This can occur for a multitude of reasons, including trauma, stroke, blood vessel abnormality and tumors.

How does a brain bleed differ from a stroke?

Dr. Wiles: In the absence of trauma or tumor, a brain bleed is a type of stroke. There are strokes that are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel preventing blood flow. And there are strokes caused by breakage of a blood vessel, which causes bleeding into the brain tissue and affects blood flow beyond the break point.

How common are brain bleeds?

Dr. Wiles: According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, about 185,000 people die from strokes. Only about 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic, or the bleeding type, but they account for 40 percent of deaths from stroke.

Who is most at risk for a brain bleed?

Dr. Wiles: There are a few factors that can increase your risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The greatest of these is uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure, which is the main cause of brain bleeds.

What are the symptoms of a brain bleed?

Dr. Wiles:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

How is a brain bleed treated?

Dr. Wiles: Most do not require surgery but are treated by lowering blood pressure, correcting blood thinners (if present), and providing medical support until well enough to undergo the appropriate therapies. Occasionally, surgery may be recommended to save a life or to minimize damage being done to the brain.

What is the recovery rate for a patient who suffers a brain bleed?

Dr. Wiles: Recovery is very dependent on location of the bleeding within the brain, the size of the bleeding and the general health of the patient prior to the stroke. Some recovery can be a matter of a few days, and others can take months. In general, healing of the complex function of the brain can be a slow process.

It is important to remember that 80 percent of strokes are considered preventable. Take an active interest in your own health — and be sure you are not ignoring problems like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Also, when it comes to a brain bleed, time matters. If you, or someone you know, is having the symptoms of possible stroke, do not delay in getting to the emergency room. Treatment and outcome results are dependent on how quickly the stroke is treated.

If you think you are suffering from a medical emergency, including a stroke, call 911. Prepare yourself to respond in the event of an emergency.

Know where your closest Parkridge ER is.