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Cerebral contusion, latin contusio cerebri, a form of traumatic brain injury, is a bruise of the brain tissue. Like bruises in other tissues, cerebral contusion can be caused by multiple microhemorrhages, small blood vessel leaks into brain tissue. Head CT scans of unconscious patients reveal that 20% have hemorrhagic contusion (Downie, 2001).

Causes[edit | edit source]

Often caused by a blow to the head, contusions commonly occur in coup or contrecoup injuries. They occur primarily in the cortical tissue, especially under the site of impact or in areas of the brain located near sharp ridges on the inside of the skull. When, after impact, the brain moves over the sharp protrusions that exist on the base of the skull (Shepherd, 2004), these ridges can cut delicate brain tissue. The protuberances are located on the inside of the skull under the frontal and temporal lobes and on the roof of the ocular orbit (Shepherd, 2004). Thus, the tips of the frontal and temporal lobes located near the bony ridges in the skull are areas where contusions frequently occur (Boone and de Montfort, 2002) and are most severe (Graham and Gennareli, 2000). For this reason, attention, emotional and memory problems, which are associated with damage to frontal and temporal lobes, are much more common in head trauma survivors than are syndromes associated with damage to other areas of the brain (Bigler, 2000).

Features[edit | edit source]

Contusions, which are frequently associated with edema, are especially likely to cause increases in intracranial pressure (ICP) and concomitant crushing of delicate brain tissue. Contusions are also more likely to result in hemorrhage than is diffuse axonal injury because they occur more often in the cortex, an area with more blood vessels (GE Healthcare, 2004).

Contusions typically form in a wedge-shape with the widest part in the outermost part of the brain (Vinas and Pilistis, 2004).

Multiple petechial hemorrhages[edit | edit source]

Numerous small contusions from broken capillaries that occur in grey matter under the cortex are called multiple petechial hemorrhages or multifocal hemorrhagic contusion (GE Healthcare, 2004). Caused by shearing injuries at the time of impact, these contusions occur especially at the junction between grey and white matter and in the upper brain stem, basal ganglia, thalamus and areas near the third ventricle (GE Healthcare, 2004; Downie, 2001). The hemorrhages can occur as the result of brain herniation, which can cause arteries to tear and bleed (GE Healthcare, 2004). A type of diffuse brain injury, multiple petechial hemorrhages are not always visible using current imaging techniques like CT and MRI scans. This may be the case even if the injury is quite severe, though these may show up days after the injury (Downie, 2001). Hemorrhages may be larger than in normal contusions if the injury is quite severe. This type of injury has a poor prognosis if the patient is comatose, even with no apparent causes for the coma (Downie, 2001).

Cerebral lacerations[edit | edit source]

Cerebral lacerations, related to contusions, occur when the pia or arachnoid membranes are cut or torn (Vinas and Pilistis, 2004). Frequently associated with skull fractures, lacerations involve a tearing of cortical tissue.

Outcome[edit | edit source]

Contusions are likely to heal on their own without medical intervention (Sanders and McKenna, 2001).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Graham DI and Gennareli TA. Chapter 5, "Pathology of Brain Damage After Head Injury" Cooper P and Golfinos G. 2000. Head Injury, 4th Ed. Morgan Hill, New York.
  1. Shepherd S. 2004. "Head Trauma."
  2. Vinas FC and Pilitsis J. 2004. "Penetrating Head Trauma."
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