Hemorrhagic progression of a contusion after traumatic brain injury: a review

J Neurotrauma. 2012 Jan 1;29(1):19-31. doi: 10.1089/neu.2011.2122. Epub 2011 Dec 5.


The magnitude of damage to cerebral tissues following head trauma is determined by the primary injury, caused by the kinetic energy delivered at the time of impact, plus numerous secondary injury responses that almost inevitably worsen the primary injury. When head trauma results in a cerebral contusion, the hemorrhagic lesion often progresses during the first several hours after impact, either expanding or developing new, non-contiguous hemorrhagic lesions, a phenomenon termed hemorrhagic progression of a contusion (HPC). Because a hemorrhagic contusion marks tissues with essentially total unrecoverable loss of function, and because blood is one of the most toxic substances to which the brain can be exposed, HPC is one of the most severe types of secondary injury encountered following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Historically, HPC has been attributed to continued bleeding of microvessels fractured at the time of primary injury. This concept has given rise to the notion that continued bleeding might be due to overt or latent coagulopathy, prompting attempts to normalize coagulation with agents such as recombinant factor VIIa. Recently, a novel mechanism was postulated to account for HPC that involves delayed, progressive microvascular failure initiated by the impact. Here we review the topic of HPC, we examine data relevant to the concept of a coagulopathy, and we detail emerging data elucidating the mechanism of progressive microvascular failure that predisposes to HPC after head trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage, Traumatic / etiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage, Traumatic / pathology*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans