Brain and Spine
dark mode light mode Search Menu

What Is Brain Swelling?

Brain swelling is a dangerous condition that increases pressure inside the skull. Swelling may be in one area or throughout the brain.

There are different causes and treatments for swelling of the brain. In some cases, a neurosurgeon will recommend surgery to relieve pressure.

Treatment for brain swelling may involve medication, surgery or another option. A quick diagnosis is essential for a safe recovery from brain swells.

Brain swelling goes by several names: brain edema, cerebral edema and elevated intracranial pressure.

Pressure in the skull slows or stops blood from flowing. Blood carries oxygen to the brain. Without blood and oxygen, cells die and the brain is damaged.

How Is Brain Swelling Treated?

Most instances of swelling in the brain require immediate medical attention. Some cases require little more than time, rest and monitoring.

For example, a minor concussion may cause slight swelling that will resolve on its own over several days.

Only a professional can evaluate a brain injury and recommend treatment. Treatment relieves swelling and treats the causes of the condition.

Quickly reducing swelling is important to keep blood and oxygen flowing to the brain. Delaying treatment increases the chance of brain damage.

Possible therapies for swelling on the brain include:

Surgery: A neurosurgeon may recommend an operation to relieve pressure in the skull. Sometimes, the brain surgeon removes part of the skull. This procedure is called decompressive craniectomy.

The neurosurgeon might also repair the cause of the swelling, including correcting a damage vein or artery.

Ventriculostomy: A surgeon uses this procedure to drain fluid from the brain, relieving pressure.

This operation involves cutting the skull and inserting a tube. Fluid drains through the tube.

Oxygen therapy: A respirator can supply more oxygen to the blood and brain. This treatment may also help decrease swelling.

Lowering body temperature: A lower brain and body temperature can reduce swelling.

IV fluids: Physicians may use IV fluids and medications to keep blood pressure at a healthy level. If blood pressure falls too low, the brain won’t receive adequate blood.

Medication: Drugs can treat some causes of swelling. Medication dissolves clots and reduces swelling.

What Are the Symptoms of Brain Swelling?

Symptoms of brain swelling often begin suddenly. Many symptoms are comparable to those of other dangerous brain conditions.

Call your physician or go to an emergency room if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to walk
  • Headache
  • Vision loss, changes
  • Memory loss
  • Neck pain, stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing