Chronic subdural hematoma (cSDH) is a highly morbid condition associated with brain atrophy in the elderly. It has a reported 30% 1-year mortality rate. Approximately half of afflicted individuals report either no or relatively unremarkable trauma preceding their diagnosis, raising the possibility that cSDH is a manifestation of degenerative or inflammatory disease rather than trauma. The purpose of this study was to compare the rates of cerebral atrophy before and after cSDH to determine whether it is more likely that cSDH causes atrophy or that atrophy causes cSDH. The authors also compared atrophy rates in patients with cSDH to the rates in patients with and without dementia.
The authors developed algorithmic segmentation analysis software to measure whole-brain, CSF, and intracranial space volumes. They then identified military veterans who had undergone at least 4 brain CT scans over a period of 10 years. Within this database, the authors identified 146 patients with 962 head CT scans who had received diagnoses of either cSDH, dementia, or no known dementia condition. Volumetric analyses of brains in 45 patients with dementia (dementia group) and 73 patients without dementia (nondementia group), in whom 262 and 519 head CT scans were obtained, respectively, were compared with 11 patients in whom 81 CT scans were obtained a mean of 4.21 years before a cSDH diagnosis and 17 patients in whom 100 scans were obtained a mean of 4.24 years after SDH. Longitudinal measures were then related to disease status and the time since first scan by using hierarchical models, and atrophy rates between the groups were compared.
Head CT scans from patients were obtained for an average time period of 4.21 years (SD 1.69) starting at a mean patient age of 74 years. Absolute brain volume loss for the 17 patients in the post-SDH group (13 were treated surgically) was significantly greater, at 16.32 ml/year, compared with 6.61 ml/year in patients with dementia, 5.33 ml/year in patients without dementia, and 3.57 ml/year in pre-SDH patients. The atrophy rate for these individuals prior to enrollment in the study was 2.32 ml/year (p = 0.001). In terms of brain volume normalized to cranial cavity size, the post-SDH group had an atrophy rate of 0.7801%/year, compared with 0.4467%/year in patients with dementia, 0.3474%/year in patients without dementia, and 0.2135%/year in the pre-SDH group.
Prior to development of a cSDH, the atrophy rates in patients who ultimately develop cSDH are similar to those of patients without dementia. After development of a cSDH, the atrophy rates increase to more than twice those of patients with dementia. Chronic subdural hematoma is thus associated with a significant increase in brain atrophy rate. These findings suggest the neurotoxic consequences of cSDH and may have implications for better understanding of the pathophysiology of cerebral atrophy and dementia.