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Systematic review

Vol. 147 No. 0304 (2017)

The conservative and pharmacological management of chronic subdural haematoma: a systematic review

  • Jehuda Soleman
  • Fabio Nocera
  • Luigi Mariani
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2017;147:w14398


Chronic subdural haematoma (cSDH), one of the most common neurosurgical entities, occurs typically in elderly patients. The incidence is expected to double by the year 2030, owing to the continuous aging of the population. Surgery is usually the treatment of choice, but conservative treatment may be a good alternative in some situations. We provide a systematic review of studies analysing the conservative treatment options and the natural history of cSDH. Of 231 articles screened, 35 were included in this systematic review. Studies evaluating the natural history and conservative treatment modalities of cSDH remain sparse and are predominantly of low level of evidence. The natural history of cSDH remains unclear and is analysed only in case reports or very small case series. “Wait and watch” or “wait and scan” management is indicated in patients with no or minor symptoms (Markwalder score 0–1). However, it seems that there are no clear clinical or radiological signs indicating whether the cSDH will resolve spontaneously or not (type C recommendation). In symptomatic patients who are not worsening or in a comatose state, oral steroid treatment might be an alternative to surgery (type C recommendation). Tranexamic acid proved effective in a small patient series (type C recommendation), but its risk of increasing thromboembolic events in patients treated with antithrombotic or anticoagulant medication is unclear. Angiotensin converting-enzyme inhibitors were evaluated only as adjuvant therapy to surgery, and their effect on the rate of recurrence remains debatable. Mannitol showed promising results in small retrospective series and might be a valid treatment modality (type C recommendation). However, the long treatment duration is a major drawback. Patients presenting without paresis can be treated with a platelet activating factor receptor antagonist (type C recommendation), since they seem to promote resolution of the haematoma, especially in patients with hygromas or low-density haematomas on computed tomography. Lastly, atorvastatin seems to be a safe option for the conservative treatment of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cSDH patients (type C recommendation). In conclusion, our knowledge of the conservative treatment modalities for cSDH is sparse and based on small case series and low grade evidence. However, some treatment modalities seem promising even in symptomatic patients with large haematomas. Randomised controlled trials are currently underway, and will hopefully provide us with good evidence for or against the conservative treatment of cSDH.


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