Is a Patient With a Concussion Admitted to the Hospital?

Recently, I finished a book that included the following medical scenario. The main character fell into a river and suffered a broken arm and concussion. During her ER visit, the doctor tells her she needs to be admitted overnight for observation because of the concussion.

This is a common medical myth (along with the one that a CT scan is required in all instances of head injury– it’s not.)

A simple concussion does not need an overnight hospital stay. Let me qualify what I mean by simple. You receive a hit on the head and have one or some of the following global symptoms (dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and amnesia to the events.) Global symptoms mean more than just the bump on your head hurts.

This is really how concussion is diagnosed. CT scan is reserved for concerns of bleeding and/or fracture that might require a neurosurgical intervention. Typically, symptoms associated with bleeding and fracture are persistent and more dramatic. Headache pain is not relieved with medication and/or worsens. There is more than one episode of vomiting. Persistent confusion. Perseverating– saying the same thing over and over. Inability to move part of the body. Decreased responsiveness. Amnesia that doesn’t improve.

A patient with a simple concussion is monitored in the ER for several hours. Typically, we’ll give them medication based on their symptoms to see if they improve. For instance, a patient that has nausea, headache and dizziness will get an anti-nausea medication and an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Ibuprofen. If their symptoms improve and/or resolve and they can hold something down to eat then they are discharged home with instructions on when to return to the ER.

In order to be admitted into the hospital the patient must exhibit severe, persistent symptomology and/or have bleeding and/or fracture.

In absence of these, the patient will be discharged home.

Author Question: Cerebral Hemorrhage

Carol Asks:



I know that cerebral hemorrhages usually don’t show symptoms, but for my plot, I want this young character to die quickly and not of an accident. I want foreshadowing of the event. I’ve given him headaches and tests will show he’s got the bulging artery–they’re going to fix it because it had leaked (thus the headaches.) He dies before that.

Is that plausible?
Jordyn Says:
Yes, this is plausible though I don’t know if I would say cerebral hemorrhages usually don’t show symptoms. This IS bleeding on the brain. Blood, where it shouldn’t be, tends to be very irritating and will show up in symptoms (things that only the patient can tell us) and signs (things that we can measure.)

I did a post on the difference between signs and symptoms that you can find here

That being said, it also depends on the size of the bleed and the location of the bleed. With a very tiny bleed– the patient may not experience any symptoms. I would say on the continuum that this would be more rare. If this aneurysm has started leaking already they may not want to postpone surgery. So, I think finding the bulging aneurysm is sufficient enough.

Other signs and symptoms of cerebral hemorrhage are:

  • Seizures
  • Weakness and/or numbness in an extremity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in vision
  • Hard to speak/Understand speech
  • Balance Issues

Don’t forget the FAST acronym for stroke:

  • Face: Is their smile equal? If they stick out their tongue– does is stray to one side and not stay in the middle?
  • Arms: Have the person lift both arms and hold them out with their palms up. If one hand turns inward or a whole arm drifts down this is called pronator drift and signals a neurosurgical emergency.
  • Speech: Have the person repeat a simple phrase. Is it clear or slurred and strange?
  • Time: If any of these are present call 911. 

In the hospital setting, I use this exact tool as a quick screening method for stroke (which can be either caused by bleeding or a clot.) A negative test doesn’t mean something didn’t happen– it just means something isn’t happening at that moment.

A friend of mine was recently on the phone with her father (who lives in another state) when he confessed to her that one of his arms had gone completely numb. She instructed him to call 911– which he did and his symptoms completely resolved by the time he got to the ED. However, he did have a transient ischemic attack (or TIA) or mini-stroke which increases his risk of a bigger event happening in the future.

For more information about cerebral hemorrhage (or stroke) you can check out this link.  

Also, these You Tube videos have a very nice, simple explanation of the genesis of stroke.

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Give Carol McClain a challenge, she’s happy. Her interests vary from climbing high ropes to playing the bassoon to Habitat for Humanity and to stained glass creation. If it’s quirky or it helps others, she loves it. Significant Living, Vista, and Evangel have published her non-fiction articles. In her spare time, she coordinates the courses for ACFW, is team leader for The Christian Pulse, and has written four novels. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, a retired pastor, and their overactive Springer spaniel. You can read her work at http://carol-mclain.blogspot.com.

Author Question: Brain Bleeding 1/2

I’ll be handling Christy’s question in two parts. Part one today.

Christy Asks:

A bullet grazes my hero’s brain. He’s taken to the hospital where he has an intracranial hematoma.Would he be in a medically induced coma after this? If so, for how long? When do doctors decide to take someone out of a medically induced coma? What would a victim be like after the fact? Sedated? When would they know the extent of the injuries?

Jordyn Says:

It depends. Let’s start from the top.
A bullet grazing someone’s brain. Okay—well in order for it to even hit the brain it has to come through the skull. So, it’s not going to be a minor injury considering that. Not like a bullet grazing your arm.
An intracranial hematoma means you have bleeding on the brain but you haven’t really specified the area. For instance, epidural hematomas occur between the dura (which is a tough membranous covering) and the skull. These are almost always taken to surgery.
In a subdural hematoma the bleeding occurs between the dura and the arachnoid layer. These are not always evacuated by surgery. It depends on their size. Intracranial bleeding can mean a lot of things—that the bleeding is just within skull (which includes the two things I’ve mentioned) or in the brain tissue itself. Bleeding within the brain tissue itself is much harder to deal with.
Would he be in a medically induced coma? It depends. The decision to put someone in a medically induced coma is more based on whether or not the doctors think the brain will swell as a result of the injury and not necessarily because there was a bleed. For instance—epidural hematomas are generally taken to surgery and evacuated without the patient needing to be put into a coma.
If they think they see a significant amount of swelling of the brain tissue then a medically induced coma is more likely. A patient is generally placed into a coma through the period of peak swelling which is generally 48-72 hours post injury. The patient gets a special monitor (a bolt) that monitors their brain pressure (or ICP—intracranial pressure). 
After that peak period of swelling comes and goes a decision will be made to wean the patient off their sedation. The pressure may stay high. If the pressure stays high the patient may proceed to brain death (caused by herniation or hypoxia related to the pressure), or significant brain injury, or recover. It may not be known for several months what the outcome is though generally if a patient is going to suffer brain death they will do it in that 48-72 hr window. Past that, if they live but the pressures have been high—more a vegetative state or significant neurological impairment. If pressures have stayed lower—the patient may recover okay.
I have seen miracles, though, too so this is not cut and dried.
As far as knowing the extent of injures—they’ll know that pretty quickly based on CT imaging. However, what won’t be known is the affect on the patient. People can have the same exact brain injury—some die—some fully recover so there is a lot of writing leeway here. It may not be known for years how the patient will recover or what their lives post-injury will look like. 
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Christy Barritt is an author, freelance writer and speaker who lives in Virginia. She’s married to her

Prince Charming, a man who thinks she’s hilarious–but only when she’s not trying to be. Christy’s a self-proclaimed klutz, an avid music lover who’s known for spontaneously bursting into song, and a road trip aficionado. She’s only won one contest in her life–and her prize was kissing a pig (okay, okay… actually she did win the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery for her book Suspicious Minds also).

Her current claim to fame is showing off her mother, who looks just like former First Lady Barbara Bush. When she’s not working or spending time with her family, she enjoys singing, playing the guitar, and exploring small, unsuspecting towns where people have no idea how accident prone she is. For more information, visit her website at: www.christybarritt.com.