Most acute subdural hematomas (ASDHs) develop after rupture of a bridging vein or veins. The anatomy of the bridging vein predisposes to its tearing within the border cell layer of the dura mater. Thus, the subdural hematoma actually forms within the dura. The hematoma grows by continued bleeding into the border cell layer. However, the venous pressure would not be expected to cause a large hematoma. Therefore, some type of mechanism must account for the hematoma's expansion.
Cerebral venous pressure (CVP) has been demonstrated in animal models to be slightly higher than intracranial pressure (ICP), and CVP tracks the ICP as pressure variations occur. The elevation of CVP as the ICP increases is thought to result from an increase in outflow resistance of the terminal portion of the bridging veins. This probably results from a Starling resistor model or, less likely, from a muscular sphincter.
A hypothesis is derived to explain the mechanism of ASDH enlargement. Tearing of one or more bridging veins causes these vessels to bleed into the dural border cell layer. Subsequent ICP elevation from the ASDH, cerebral swelling, or other cause results in elevation of the CVP by increased outflow resistance in the intact bridging veins. The increased ICP causes further bleeding into the hematoma cavity via the torn bridging veins. Thus, the ASDH enlarges via a positive feedback mechanism.
Enlargement of an ASDH would cease as blood within the hematoma cavity coagulates. This would stop the dissection of the dural border cell layer, and pressure within the hematoma cavity would equalize with that in the torn bridging vein or veins.