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How To Read Basic Trauma CT Brain

🧠 Basic Trauma CT Brain Reading Guide 🧠

Navigating a CT Brain Scan for Trauma Cases

When analyzing a CT Brain for trauma cases, the emphasis is on identifying three critical types of brain herniation. This guide aims to enhance understanding of CT Brain readings, offering a practical approach for those involved in trauma care.

CT Brain Non-Contrast Examination:

- Axial Series Focus: Examine horizontal cross-sections from the vertex (top) to the foramen magnum (bottom).

- Orientation: The left screen side corresponds to the patient's right side, and vice versa. Position yourself as if standing at the patient's feet.

- Navigation: Begin at the top and progress downwards, using controls to move through images.

Key Focus Areas:

- Motor and Sensory Cortex: Identify the central sulcus separating the frontal and parietal lobes. Lesions here can cause contralateral body part deficits.

- Frontal Horn of Lateral Ventricles: Key for spotting midline shifts indicative of subfalcine herniation, suggesting a mass effect from conditions like subdural hematoma (SDH), epidural hematoma (EDH), or significant brain contusion.

- Basal Ganglia and Thalamus Area: Essential for detecting deep brain injuries. A solitary round intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) here often points to a medical cause, like hypertensive ICH, rather than trauma.

Brain Herniation Types to Identify:

1. Subfalcine Herniation: A midline shift over 0.5 cm suggests a mass effect without immediate consciousness loss but indicates significant underlying issues.

2. Uncal Herniation: Pay extra attention to this. It involves the temporal lobe's uncus pressing on the midbrain, possibly leading to severe symptoms like contralateral weakness and ipsilateral pupil dilation.

3. Tonsillar Herniation: Occurs at the foramen magnum level, potentially severely affecting the brainstem's respiratory and cardiovascular centers, posing life-threatening conditions.

Tips for Reporting:

- Start with the vertex to avoid overlooking significant injuries.

- Carefully assess crucial axial cuts for herniation signs and mass effect.

- Incorporate clinical signs like pupil reactivity, motor signs, and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) changes in your report.

Neuroanatomy Review:

Understanding brain anatomy is fundamental. The brain is divided into supratentorial and infratentorial (posterior fossa) regions by the tentorial cerebelli.

- Supratentorial Region: Encompasses cerebral hemispheres, basal ganglia, and thalamus. Lesions here can cause specific deficits depending on the area affected.

- Infratentorial Region: Houses the brainstem and cerebellum, where lesions can lead to cranial nerve deficits and impact balance and fine motor control.

Immediate Actions:

- Be vigilant for signs of different brain herniation types.

- Recognize that posterior fossa effects demand urgent attention.


Understanding Acute Epidural Hematoma (EDH):

- Hyperdensity: Indicates the acute nature of the blood, appearing white on CT.

- Shape: EDH typically has a biconvex lentiform shape, underlining the role of high blood pressure in detaching the dura from the skull's inner table. This shape is more difficult to achieve in older patients due to stronger dural adhesion.

- Compressing Brain: The hematoma compresses the brain without infiltrating the sulci/gyri, as the dura separates the blood from the brain tissue.

- Overlying Skull Fracture: Often, an EDH is associated with a skull fracture located above the epidural space.

- Location and Crossing Skull Suture Lines: Generally, EDH does not cross skull suture lines due to the dura's firm attachment at these points, though large hematomas may breach these boundaries.

Efficient Reporting to Neurosurgical Staff:

Provide a concise description that includes patient age, incident brief, GCS score, EDH location, size, associated skull fractures, any midline shift, uncal herniation signs, and current GCS, along with pupil dilation as an uncal herniation indicator.

Surgical Indications for EDH:

- Thickness greater than 1.5 cm, GCS drop attributable to midline shift > 0.5cm or uncal herniation, volume > 30 ml (calculated via formula), and presence of neurodeficits matching the hematoma's location suggest craniotomy benefits.

Conservative Treatment for EDH:

Small EDHs or those not significantly compressing the brain may be managed conservatively, allowing the body to gradually resolve the hematoma.

This guide serves as a comprehensive approach for Basic Trauma CT Brain reading, focusing on identifying crucial features and making informed decisions regarding the management of trauma cases.

Hematoma Volume Measurement on CT Scans

Determining the volume of a hematoma on a CT scan is critical for neurosurgeons to make decisions about surgical intervention. It helps estimate the amount of blood that may need to be removed during surgery. Using the Ellipsoid Method, this guide explains the process for estimating the volume of different types of hematomas, like Intracerebral (ICH) and Epidural Hematomas (EDH).

Ellipsoid Method for Estimating Hematoma Volume

- Formula: The volume of a hematoma can be estimated using the formula: Volume (ml) = (A x B x C) / 2. Here, A, B, and C are the hematoma's width, length, and height in centimeters, respectively.

- Hematoma Shapes: ICHs tend to resemble spheres or ellipsoids, while EDHs are compared to rugby balls or ellipsoids, making this formula a suitable estimation tool.

Measuring Hematoma Volume on CT Scans

1. Identifying the Largest Cut: Find the CT slice where the hematoma appears the largest. Measure A (anterior-posterior diameter) and B (medial-lateral diameter).

2. Measuring Height (C): If sagittal or coronal series are available, the height can be measured directly. Otherwise, count the number of slices showing the hematoma and multiply by the slice thickness (THK), which is usually 0.3-0.5 cm.

3. Calculating Volume: Multiply the slice count by the slice thickness to get the height in cm, multiply by A and B, and divide by 2 to find the volume in ml.

Limitations and Specific Cases

- This method is not suitable for Pure Intraventricular Hemorrhage or Subarachnoid Hemorrhage due to their unique shapes.

- For crescent-shaped Acute Subdural Hematoma (SDH), volume measurement is typically not as relevant as the maximal thickness. However, volume can still be estimated if necessary.

Approach to Basic Trauma CT Brain Scans

The guide emphasizes clear and concise reporting of CT findings, particularly for Acute Subdural Hematoma (SDH), considering the neurosurgical team's limited time.

- Acute Subdural Hematoma (SDH): Appears hyperdense compared to gray matter, varying from crescentic shapes for significant volumes to subtle smearing for smaller volumes. Unlike Epidural Hematoma (EDH), SDH can cross suture lines but not falx cerebri.

- Key Parameters for SDH:

- Thickness: SDH greater than 1 cm suggests a need for potential surgery.

- Location: Often found at the brain's convexity, along the falx cerebri, or tentorial cerebelli.

- Underlying Brain Damage: Includes contusions and edema, critical for prognosis and management.

- Brain Herniation: Midline shifts >0.5 cm or uncal herniation are pivotal for surgical decisions.

- Management Decisions: Based on SDH characteristics and brain injuries, treatment may range from craniotomy, decompressive craniectomy, to conservative measures.

Conservative Treatment and Statistical Outcomes

- Most patients under conservative treatment for acute SDH see hematoma absorption in 2-4 weeks.

- The RESCUE-ASDH trial explores whether primary decompressive craniectomy should be standard for SDH treatment to prevent delayed swelling and herniation.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH) Focus

- SAH: Blood in the subarachnoid space, potentially obstructing CSF flow, leading to acute hydrocephalus, and causing seizures.

- Traumatic vs. Non-traumatic SAH: Traumatic SAH, usually less severe, resolves with conservative management. Non-traumatic SAH, often due to ruptured aneurysms, requires urgent neurosurgical evaluation.

Management Advice

- Isolated Traumatic SAH: For mild head injuries (GCS 13-15), conservative management is generally adequate, with hospital admission for monitoring.

- Identifying Ruptured Aneurysms: History and CT imaging characteristics are essential for spotting cases potentially caused by aneurysms.

This detailed guide aims to make the process of measuring hematoma volume on CT scans and understanding the approach to basic trauma CT brain scans more accessible.

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