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How a Bump on the Head Could Have Caused Permanent Disability

Fast Response by Loyola Neurologist and Neurosurgeon Removes Subdural Hematoma

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- When Dr. Irene Gatti de Leon slipped on the ice and bumped her head, she wasn't too concerned.

But two months later, she began to experience weakness in her right leg and right arm while she and her husband were visiting their daughter in suburban Chicago.

So she made an urgent appointment with Loyola University Medical Center neurologist Dr. José Biller, a fellow native of Uruguay whom she has known for years.

Biller ordered an immediate MRI scan, which showed a large subdural hematoma -- a mass of blood on the surface of the brain. With the hematoma compressing the brain, de Leon was in imminent danger of suffering permanent paralysis or cognitive deficits, similar to disabilities caused by strokes.

Biller referred de Leon to Loyola neurosurgeon Dr. Douglas Anderson, who stayed late to perform emergency surgery. Anderson drilled two holes in her skull and drained the hematoma, which was about 2 inches long and 1½ inches thick. De Leon has made a full recovery.

Subdural hematomas are triggered by head injuries that cause blood vessels between the surface of the brain and its outer covering (the dura) to stretch and tear. Subdural hematomas usually are caused by severe head injuries that cause bleeding, which rapidly fills the brain area. But less severe head injuries can cause chronic subdural hematomas. These slow bleeds may not cause symptoms for days or weeks.

De Leon's case "is an excellent illustration of why patients should not ignore neurological symptoms," Biller said.

The case also is an example of how patients can benefit from immediate, same-day care by a multidisciplinary team, Biller said.

Anderson said he collaborates closely with neurologists on brain surgeries he performs for neurological conditions, including hematoma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. "We communicate and work together very closely," Anderson said.

Biller is chairman of the Department of Neurology and Anderson is a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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