What herniation syndromes are caused by subdural hematoma (SDH)?

Updated: Jul 26, 2018
  • Author: Richard J Meagher, MD; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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In addition to increasing the ICP, the hematoma deforms and displaces the brain. Eventually, transtentorial or subfalcine herniation can develop as the brain is pushed past the dural folds of the tentorial incisura or falx, respectively.

Tonsillar herniation through the foramen magnum may develop if the whole brain stem is forced down through the tentorial incisura by elevated supratentorial pressure. Although much less common than supratentorial subdural hematoma, infratentorial subdural hematoma can develop and cause tonsillar herniation and brainstem compression.

Characteristic herniation syndromes may develop as the brain shifts. As the medial temporal lobe, or uncus, herniates past the tentorium, it can compress the ipsilateral posterior cerebral artery, oculomotor nerve, and cerebral peduncle. Clinically, the consequent oculomotor nerve palsy and cerebral peduncle compression are often manifested by an ipsilaterally dilated pupil and a contralateral hemiparesis.

The patient also may develop a stroke of the posterior cerebral artery distribution. In approximately 5% of cases, the hemiparesis may be ipsilateral to the dilated pupil. This phenomenon is called the Kernohan notch syndrome and results when uncal herniation forces the midbrain to shift so that the contralateral cerebral peduncle is forced against the contralateral tentorial incisura.

Subfalcine herniation caused by midline brain shift may result in compression of anterior cerebral artery branches against the fixed falx cerebri, leading to infarcts in an anterior cerebral artery distribution.

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