When to Go to the Hospital

Question: 

People who've just had their brains jostled may be in no condition to decide if they need medical care. And the people around them may not know that hitting your head can be dangerous even if you don't lose consciousness. How do you know when you should go to the hospital after having "your bell rung"?

Answer: 

Going to the hospital after a head injury can mean the difference between life and death. But how do you know when to go? This can seem like a difficult decision, but let me sum up the answer for you: when in doubt, go to the hospital. Not later. Not tomorrow. Now!

Here's why.

The hospital is the only place that has a CAT scanner that can "look" inside your head and determine if there is any bleeding in your brain. Bleeding in the brain can be life-threatening when there is enough blood in the right spot to press down on the brain and squeeze it. These dangerous forms of bleeding are called epidural and subdural hematomas. Because the brain is trapped inside the skull, slow bleeding can force important parts of the brain against the inside of the skull and through the small hole in the base of the skull called the foramen magnum. These important brain areas, which control breathing and heart rate, stop working when they get squeezed and this is what results in death. With a CAT scan, epidural and subdural hematomas are easily diagnosed. The treatment requires surgery to remove the blood clot. The quicker the surgery, the better the chances for a good outcome.

So, how do you know when to go to the hospital? The decision is easy if you're the one making it for someone else and that person is not responding to you or looks asleep. This is called coma. The risk of a subdural or epidural hematoma in comatose head injured patients is high and you should summon an ambulance immediately!

But what if the head injury doesn't cause a coma? What if the head injury just causes a brief loss of consciousness, brief period of amnesia, or a sensation of feeling dazed? A person who has such an injury — termed concussion or mild traumatic brain injury — can look, and even feel, just fine. The problem is, even though the person looks good on the outside, inside the skull there is a small chance that slow bleeding is taking place. After a concussion, the chances of this happening are not large — about 1 in 1000 — but the only way to diagnose it is with that hospital-based CAT scan.

Here are the symptoms of a concussion that should prompt an immediate trip to the hospital or emergency department.

  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.

One word of caution: because any brain injury — even a concussion — has the potential to injure the brain, the brain-injured patient may lack the judgment to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to go to the hospital. Family and friends can be instrumental in helping the patient chose a course of action that is best for him or her. And when in doubt, go to the hospital!

When in doubt, go to the hospital!

 

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Posted on BrainLine April 8, 2009. Reviewed March 28, 2019.

Comments (738)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I fell down metal stairs and hit my head I loss consciousness and dont remember walking up the stairs until i walked half way home

I was moving some things around and I bent down too pick up something and a flat screen tv monitor fell and hit my head but i didnt lose conscious or anything. Will I be okay?

to day I fall down in bath room back side of the my head hit strongly without bleeding ,swelling after that no loss of consciousness ,memory but head ach is prevailing even after 12 hours is the necessity to go for
CT scan or not whether it is alright

I fall down in bath room back side of the my head hit strongly without bleeding ,swelling after that no loss of consciousness ,memory but head ach is prevailing even after 12 hours is the necessity to go for
CT scan or not whether it is alright

I hit my head and it told 4stapes in it And my head did hurt then went to Hosp But it does now I diding have E Ray done Should I?

I hit my head on a bed frame now the front of my face is swollen & is constantly hurting. I am very concerned it feels like my skull is dented somehow, maybe I’m overacting. Should I go to the hospital ?

I banged my head on a barrier a week ago, it was the front of my head , it was such a force it knocked me back, I have no headaches and I didn't feel sick, but today I Have pain at the bottom of my spine, should I be worried I am 74 but quite fit

Earlier today, I was getting out of my car and hit my head on the door and fell onto the pavement. I briefly lost consciousness for like 10 seconds and now I have a headache. What should I do?

I banged my head on my cupboard door and it was bleeding almost instantly and sharp, shooting pains all over my head and strong eye pain

Shoukd i go to the hospital if my frirnd did a sharp turn and hit my head on the foam inside of the car?

I tripped and smacked the back of my head on the wall and now there is a large flat bump that hurts to touch and my neck and shoulders hurt what does this mean

Earlier today I got punched in the right temple. I have a headache, stomach ache, light headedness and pain in my ribs. Is this normal

What ended up happening? I hit myself out of anger several times in the temples and now I have a headache. I’m scared I caused damage.

Hi, 3 weeks ago a shelf stacked with heavy objects collapsed and fell on the top of my head. I saw stars briefly and a small lump appeared. I was sick when I got home which I know can be common. I keep feeling sea sick and I have had a couple of weird turns where I feel like I’ve come if a fair ground ride. Is this normal?

Fell back wards fell hard on back of head ran cold water on my head wichtook lump down alot but I now my head seems to be softer on top off my head at back I feel a little sick but not feeling to bad a little bit shackey

My friend hit accidentally hit me in the head with the back of her head and before that happened my head was a little sore but now it aches and i can't even touch or move my hair without it hurting, i don't know what to do

My good friend, who was 70 died last week after losing his balance climbing stairs and falling face first onto the tile floor from the 3rd step. He was a 6’2/220 lbs. His glasses cut his face right above his eye and there was a tremendous amount of blood. He remained conscious and was able to speak. The ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. Apparently, though- the fall caused a large brain bleed that was inoperable and he was declared brain dead in a very short time. I am devastated. His balance had been poor for some time and he had a couple of minor falls previously. He refused to use a cane or walker due to pride. His bedroom was on the second floor. This should have never happened. A tragic unnecessary death.

I got elbowed in the head a day ago, I was confused but it didn't hurt, it buzzed or something. I don't know the specific word for it but am I okay?

I got robbed a few days ago and my face was badly beaten I have swelling above my eye and lights hurt it very bad should I go to the doctor

I have anxiety and my issue doesn’t seem as bad as everyone else’s but I’m a 13 year old Minor I was laying on the floor and my sister took a stuffed animal and gave it to me It hit my right temple a little and there’s no swelling or anything but at first I felt a little weird am I okay? I think I am but I’m unsure

I cant see at night (night blind) and i was also drinking, went to the bar with my sister and she was holding my arm but forgot to move me brom the brick wall in front me i slammed my whole body into it split my lip, and my knee is also swollen and my head hurts, am i fine to not go in ir should i go in? I dont want to look dumb

I hit my head to the sink while getting up during bathing my toddler i got a lil bump kind of on top of forehead n its still hurts 4 day today should i go to doctor or not plz guide ..there is not mark or redness i feel pain if i touch that area lil...no other strong symptoms.

Thanx

Kavita

I was head butted by a 50 lb strong dog. His head hit my temple. It caused immediate pain & tears, dizziness & 3 days later I still have a 'foggy" mind & gull head ache

i got in a fight hit my forhead hard on the floor & it was swollen the second i hit it....it keeps getting a little bigger but not fast...it’s not bruised just big & it hurts when i press on it but not very bad should i see a dr?

Today I was quickly walking trying to get to my bus stop on time,I stupidly slipped on ice hit myself in the face with my metal water bottle and fell backwards hitting my head on concrete. I got back up and made it to my bus stop only having a busted lip and slight pain on my arms and hip/right side. I’ve been fine all day but should I go to the hospital just in case?

There was a freak incident at home this morning. While I haven't had to change the light bulb in one of my secondary bedrooms in over a year, so the glass cover hasn't been touched in that length of time, it literally just fell from the ceiling and hit the top of my head. Thankfully the cover didn't break or cause a bleeding cut. Those things only weigh a few pounds, but it was jarring. I don't feel any lumps and no real pain or even soreness. Should I just monitor the point of impact?

Can someone tell me if i need to go get head checked as i was moving something from underneath the fork lift today my manager was driving it and putting the forks down as i came up in work we dont have hard hats so it left a lump at least but not sure if i should go to hospital

TodayI was bending down to get into my car and I hit the right side of my head above my ear pretty hard, I’ve been having a headache ever since and my head feels fuzzy should I go to the ER

How are you feeling now? I had a hit on the same spot . Feeling fuzzy as well.

The other day I was pushed into the wall and hit my head, I dony really remember acually hitting the wall and it didn't hurt right away after but like 10 minutes later it started hurting really bad, its been a couple days now and it still hurt really bad and I've had a constant headache and it feels like my head is throbbing and it hurts my scalp when I put up my hair. Should I go to the hospital?

On Monday morning 1/27, just getting out of bed, I bent over to put on my shoe, lost my balance and hit my right temple on the corner of my nightstand. Headaches a lot and very sore in the jaw area. The knot is outwards and very sore to touch. Should I seek medical attention?

I hit my head on Thursday at 4 am when I fell unconscious for about 20 seconds. But I don't know if I fell directly on the floor or if my head hit the door corner, additionally, no-one saw, I was just lying on the floor. When I regained consciousness I thought I was dreaming and my feet were wobbly. I couldn't talk properly. After about 2 minutes or so I was fairly stable I had pain in that area of my head ever since and occasionally my whole head would hurt. When I walk faster than usual then I would feel each and every of those footsteps in my head same goes with the staircase. I do feel dazed sometimes and I can't properly focus but I've also been taking some heavy medications since Wednesday as I had high fever, actually that may had caused the loss of consciousness. But now that my fever is gone I have severe sore throat so I'm still on medications. I had been sleeping on only one side of my head ever since because it made like a little bump and is VERY sensitive to the touch. I don't know what's causing my airy like state, my head or my sickness? Can someone please advise me what to do. Thank you.

Sounds kinda serious!

I'd most definitely go and see someone to check that out.

I hit my head on the corner of a desk , it did hurt a lot at the time and i had a large lump on the top of my head and a headache for a couple of hours .As the lump has gone down i notice there is a dent which is painful to touch , should i be worried about it , thanks .

So I went out two nights ago and got pretty drunk. I don’t remember getting back home. I woke up the next morning with a huge gash and couple bruises on my knee indicating I fell. I don’t remember falling, but the side/ top of my head is also sore to the touch. I’m guessing I hit my head in the process? I threw up the next day but assumed it was from the drinking. I have felt kind of out of it since that night. And my head still hurts. Should I go to the doctor?

I hit my left temple on the counter but i didn’t hit it that hard it was kind of light but it was enough for me to say ouch . Now the left side hurts a little bit like a tickling sensation. Should I be worried???

I think you should get It checked, but thats Just my opinion.

I hit my forehead off of the wall days ago and only now about 4 days after have developed a hard lump under my eye, as well as a black eye that’s only getting worse. I know the blood is draining from the egg on my head I’m more worried about the hard lump?

I hope you went to the ER

i would go to the hospital

I believe I would get that checked out since it has caused a knot in a place that wasn't hit.

I also hit my head on the edge of a door literally 8months ago now it left me with a big goose egg an then two black eyes days later & ever since I’ve been left with a hard lump on my forehead I’m a little worried myself if I’m honest, why do I still have this lump 8months on.....????! Someone help your advice would be greatful thanks

So today at the gym I accidentally dropped a 95 lbs weight in my head right above my left eye. It instantly welped up. I feel okay now it’s been a bout 2 hours. I have a bit of pain In My eye and of course a headache. Should I go in or is it safe to wait. I’m also a nanny of a 8 month old so I only have 3 days to decide before I go back to work On Monday.

How are you feeling? I had am 8lb weight roll off the top of the shelf and hit the top of my forehead....i feel fine, didnt lose consciousness but it does seem to hurt more now, which im assuming is the bruise/lump and itsa been 3 hours...

I lost my balance and hit the back of my head on a cast iron fireplace tool yesterday. I have a bump on that side of my head, a headache and I feel a bit “fuzzy brained”. Now I have a new bump on the opposite side of my head that really hurts. Should I be concerned? I am the main caregiver of my disabled husband and kids - and the only driver!

hi, I was punched in the head and after a week when i press on a spot on the side of my head it hurts alot. I got a CAT scan and they found nothing wrong at the time and it's been a week and I still feel pain and headache.

Hello, recently today I was ice skating and fell backwards and hit the back of my head hard against the ice floor, I felt my head throbbing and it hurts my neck to move my head around. Later that night I began getting minor headaches for short periods of time that leave and come back. Would you suggest going to the doctor?

So I was being stupid and jumped on my bed in a hurry to lay down with my phone in my hand, and it landed on my left temple. I didn’t have any headaches, vertigo or any of the symptoms listed above. I also noticed that when I bit down, just messing around to relive the pain on my temple it started to hurt even worse. I don’t know if it means anything, all I know is it was hurting for a while; and now the pain is gone.

Hi today at work i hit my head on the corner of the microwave and I started bleeding and was dizzy and got a headache and I still have the headache and the dizziness. I also have virtigo so should I see my doc

Pages