Cerebral edema: symptoms and treatment

Cerebral edema is a dangerous condition characterized by excessive accumulation of exudate in the tissues of the organ. As a consequence, its volume gradually increases and intracranial pressure increases. All this leads to a violation of the circulation of blood in the body and to the death of its cells.

The cerebral edema begins to progress because of the increase in the permeability of the blood vessels of the organ and the violation of the blood-brain barrier. As a consequence, the liquid part of the circulating blood freely seeps into the brain tissue. It should be noted that this pathological condition is not an independent nosological unit, but progresses again, against the background of other diseases.

Usually the edema of the brain progresses so quickly that if delay and do not conduct adequate treatment, then death occurs. The ailment has no limitations regarding age and sex. It can develop even in newborn children.


The reasons that can lead to edema of the brain are quite a lot. It is worth noting that this pathological condition will develop with the following contributing factors:

  • prolonged hypoxia of the brain
  • reduced protein concentration in the bloodstream;
  • increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

The main causes of the progression of cerebral edema:

  1. strong intoxication of the body with alcohol, its decay products, as well as various narcotic substances
  2. CWT of varying severity (frequent cause of brain swelling)
  3. an allergic reaction
  4. stroke;
  5. Tumor
  6. inflammatory diseases — meningitis, encephalitis, etc.
  7. somatic ailments — burn disease, severe infections, etc.


Depending on the causes of progression, the following types of cerebral edema are distinguished:

  • traumatic;
  • ischemic;
  • Tumor
  • inflammatory;
  • Postoperative
  • hypertensive;
  • toxic.


Clinic of cerebral edema consists of cerebral and focal symptoms. The sequence of their manifestation directly depends on the original cause of the development of pathology. It is worth noting that clinicians distinguish between gradual and fulminant forms of cerebral edema.

With gradual progression, doctors have a certain amount of time to stop the development of the pathological process and protect the patient from dangerous consequences.

The lightning-fast form is extremely difficult to stop, as the symptoms manifest and grow rapidly. In most clinical situations, this form of illness ends in a fatal outcome.

Symptoms of cerebral edema:

  1. A violation of consciousness. This symptom is present for any type of edema of the brain;
  2. headache;
  3. weakness;
  4. drowsiness;
  5. listlessness
  6. dizziness;
  7. memory impairment
  8. nausea;
  9. vomiting, as well as vomiting, which does not bring relief to the patient (a characteristic symptom);
  10. impaired visual function
  11. a person ceases to navigate normally in space
  12. short-term spasms of the muscular structures that arise involuntarily
  13. blood pressure reduction
  14. short-term convulsions
  15. Hyperthermia.

Infirmity in newborns

In neonates, the edema of the brain develops lightning fast. This is due to the child’s anatomical features — imperfect regulation of vascular tone, circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. The only factor that saves the newborn is the features of the skull structure (the bone structures are located a short distance from each other).

Causes of cerebral edema in newborns:

  • birth trauma
  • intrauterine hypoxia
  • developmental abnormalities of the central nervous system
  • tumors of benign or malignant nature
  • intrauterine infection
  • development of encephalitis or meningitis (due to infection when passing through the mother’s birth canal).

Symptoms of cerebral edema in newborns:

  1. retardation;
  2. constant concern;
  3. shout;
  4. convulsive seizures
  5. the newborn refuses the maternal breast;
  6. The fontanel swells and rises above the child’s head even in a period of calmness
  7. Vomiting.

It is important to detect and treat the swelling of the brain in a timely manner in the child, as the consequences may be deplorable.


Diagnosis should be started immediately, as soon as symptoms appear that indicate the progression of cerebral edema. Timely adequate diagnosis and therapy will help to avoid dangerous consequences. The complex of diagnostic measures for this disease is as follows:

  • general and biochemical blood test
  • examination of the cervical-head department
  • MRI of the brain
  • CT of the brain;
  • Neurological examination


The edema of the brain of any kind requires immediate treatment. Any delay can lead to disastrous consequences (death). The main goal of therapy is to normalize the exchange of oxygen in the tissues of the organ. This can be achieved only with the help of surgical and drug treatment methods.

Healing measures:

  1. oxygen therapy;
  2. hypothermia. It implies the normalization of temperature. To this end, the patient is administered IV infusion of sterile solutions;

  3. ventriculostomy. The procedure makes it possible to normalize the pressure inside the skull. For this purpose, drainage is installed and excess exudate is removed through the catheter. This surgical technique is used in especially severe cases, when there is no possibility to eliminate edema by conservative methods. After intervention, a long rehabilitation period follows.