Subdural Versus Epidural Hematoma

When it comes to head injuries, subdural and epidural hematomas are two conditions that can be quite concerning. Both involve bleeding within the skull, but they have distinct differences, particularly when it comes to imaging.

Subdural Hematoma

What is Subdural Hematoma?

A subdural hematoma is a condition where blood collects between the brain and the dura mater, a protective membrane that covers the brain. These hematomas are typically caused by head trauma, which can range from mild to severe. Let’s discuss the imaging aspects.

Imaging Subdural Hematomas

  • CT Scan: Computed tomography (CT) is a widely used imaging technique to diagnose subdural hematomas. On the CT scan, subdural hematomas usually appear as crescent-shaped collections of blood between the brain and the skull. The density of the blood may vary depending on how recent the bleeding occurred.
  • MRI Scan: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides even more detailed images of subdural hematomas. MRI can help determine the age of the hematoma, which is helpful for treatment planning.

Epidural Hematoma

What is Epidural Hematoma?

An epidural hematoma, on the other hand, is characterized by bleeding between the inner surface of the skull and the dura mater. It’s often the result of a skull fracture.

Imaging Epidural Hematomas

  • CT Scan: Like with subdural hematomas, CT scans play a vital role in diagnosing epidural hematomas. On a CT scan, epidural hematomas appear as lens-shaped collections of blood, typically associated with a skull fracture. They often don’t cross the sutures of the skull.
  • MRI Scan: While MRI can be used to diagnose epidural hematomas, CT is more commonly employed due to its ability to quickly and accurately detect these hematomas. However, an MRI can be useful to assess associated brain injuries.

Key Differences in Imaging

  1. Location: The primary difference between the imaging of subdural and epidural hematomas is the location of the blood collection. Subdural hematomas are between the brain and the dura mater, while epidural hematomas are between the skull and the dura mater.
  2. Shape: Subdural hematomas typically appear crescent-shaped, while epidural hematomas have a lens-shaped appearance.
  3. Associations: Epidural hematomas are often associated with skull fractures, making them more visible in CT scans due to the presence of bone fragments.


Imaging plays a crucial role in differentiating between subdural and epidural hematomas. CT scans are the primary imaging tool used to diagnose both conditions, but MRI can provide more detailed information about subdural hematomas, especially regarding their age.

Understanding these imaging differences is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment planning, as both conditions require distinct approaches. Always consult a medical professional for any head injury concerns, as early detection and treatment are critical.

If you or a loved one experiences head trauma, seek immediate medical attention, and consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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