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Intracranial subdural hematoma in children: Clinical features, evaluation, and management

Mark R Proctor, MD
Section Editor
Richard G Bachur, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Subdural hematoma (SDH) forms when there is hemorrhage into the potential space between the dura and the arachnoid membranes. SDH in children differs significantly from SDH in adults because abusive head injury is a common etiology, especially in pediatric patients <2 years of age [1]. In contrast to epidural hematoma (EDH), indications for operative management of SDH are less clear, and surgery is less likely to prevent morbidity and mortality. (See "Intracranial epidural hematoma in children: Clinical features, diagnosis, and management".)

This review will discuss the clinical features, evaluation, and management of subdural hematoma in children. The epidemiology, anatomy, and pathophysiology of SDH in children and SDH in adults are discussed separately. (See "Intracranial subdural hematoma in children: Epidemiology, anatomy, and pathophysiology" and "Subdural hematoma in adults: Etiology, clinical features, and diagnosis" and "Subdural hematoma in adults: Prognosis and management".)


A rapid overview summarizes the important clinical features and initial management of SDH in children (table 1).

History — In the abused infant or young child, SDH is frequently discovered after physical examination and imaging. The history usually does not provide a plausible mechanism for the severity of injury and may be misleading. Frequently no mention of trauma of any kind is given. Common presenting complaints include altered mental status, seizures, apnea, breathing difficulty, or sudden cardiopulmonary arrest. (See "Child abuse: Evaluation and diagnosis of abusive head trauma in infants and children", section on 'History'.)

Historical features may suggest an increased risk of SDH in patients with unintentional injury, such as:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 18, 2017.
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