BioMed Research International

BioMed Research International / 2014 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2014 |Article ID 218646 | 6 pages |

Risk Factors for Chronic Subdural Hematoma after a Minor Head Injury in the Elderly: A Population-Based Study

Academic Editor: Wei-Pin Chang
Received30 May 2014
Accepted26 Aug 2014
Published11 Sep 2014


Chronic subdural hematoma (CSDH) is one of the major comorbidities in elderly resulting in disability and death. Early recognition of CSDH is important for early management. However, manifestations of CSDH are nonspecific and subtle. Therefore, identification of risk factors of CSDH can offer clinical follow-up strategies for patients after episodes of head injury. The purpose of the study aimed at identifying risk factors of CSDH of Taiwanese. Analysis of data from the National Health Insurance provides important information on predictive factors influencing the early diagnosis of CSDH in elderly patients following minor head injuries. The current study is the first nationwide population-based study in Taiwan, showing that old age (≥75 years), male gender, and coexisting hydrocephalus are significantly predictive factors, irrespective to their medical comorbidities.

1. Introduction

Chronic subdural hematoma (CSDH) is a relatively common affliction, especially among the elderly in whom the prevalence has been estimated to be 7.4~13.1/100,000 people [1, 2]. Although the diagnosis has been improved since the introduction of computerized tomography (CT), either many cases in the elderly aged above 65 years are missed or the diagnosis is delayed, due to nonfocal neurological deficits and/or concomitant chronic medical conditions. Indeed, it has been shown that CSDH in the elderly is more likely to be presented as mental changes instead of typical symptoms of increased intracranial pressure [3]. Miranda et al., based on a single center data, suggest that CSDH could be considered as a surrogate marker for underlying chronic diseases, which explains an accelerated mortality despite initial successful treatment [4]. Given a high concordance between the clinical and the National Health Insurance (NHI) data in Taiwan with over 95% of case coverage, this case-control study seeks to verify the above hypothesis by examining comorbidities in the elderly after a minor head injury at a national population level. Findings could be used for identifying the high risk population who can further benefit from early alerts and prompt treatment for CSDH.

2. Materials and Methods

This is a case-control study seeking to verify the hypothesis raised by Miranda et al. that CSDH may represent a surrogate marker for comorbidities in the elderly after a minor head injury. For better generalization of the study result, population-based data instead of individual hospital records are used.

2.1. Data

This anonymous dataset is extracted from the NHI in Taiwan as part of clinical audit, and therefore ethical approval is not required. Sources for the clinical information include records of hospital inpatients, outpatients, or general practitioners. In 1995, Taiwan launched the one single-payer NHI scheme replacing previous separate workplace health insurance funds, which is overseen by the NHI agency of the central government, Department of Health. It is mandatory for the health care providers to submit clinical data to the NHI agency for reimbursement, and therefore the NHI has been collecting the data to produce national information on all clinical patterns since then. Files are linked to a person-based database, updated, and ascertained. The completeness of coverage has been estimated at 95% [5, 6]. In this study, based on the population data from NHI instead of reviewing individual medical records, minor head injury was defined as head injury and/or cerebral concussion without concomitant intracranial hemorrhage (intracerebral, epidural, subdural, and subarachnoid hemorrhage). CSDH was defined as subdural hematoma (SDH) after head injury “AND” requiring burr hole drainage (surgery code of NHI in Taiwan: 83038; op-code of ICD-9-CM: 01.12, 01.31).

The following ICD-9 codes were used for extracting data: head injury (854.00–854.19), cerebral concussion (850.0–850.9), subdural hematoma (432.1), diabetes mellitus (DM, 250.X), hypertension (401–405), chronic kidney disease (585), chronic liver disease (571.0–571.9), rheumatic heart disease (91, 392–398), ischemic heart disease (410–414), atrial fibrillation/atrial flutter (Af/AF, 427.31, 427.32), heart failure (428.0–428.4), peripheral artery occlusion (440.21, 440.23), deep vein thrombosis (451.11, 451.19, 453.41, 453.42, 453.9, 454.0, 454.1, 454.2, and 454.9), and hydrocephalus (331.3, 331.5). The comorbidities selected were considered to be associated with coagulopathy, long-term treatment by anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents, or potential intracranial hypotension by diversion therapy of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These comorbidities were potential risk factors of CSDH formation after minor head injury.

From 2000 to 2010 data of 87325 patients with a minor head injury admitted either as in- or outpatients are available in the NHI for analysis. For the purpose of analyzing potential predictive factors for developing CSDH after a minor head injury in the elderly, 73166 patients aged <65 years, 103 patients whose CSDH is diagnosed before minor head injury, and 30 patients with CSDH diagnosed 5 or more years following the minor head injury are excluded. A total of 14026 patients are finally eligible for analysis. For comparison, a control group of 14026 elderly was selected randomly from one of the individuals who matched the case’s age and gender of the same index year. Figure 1 illustrates the selection of cases and controls.

All the data were obtained under the permission and supervision of the Institution Review Board, Taipei City Hospital (TCHIRB-1020715-W).

2.2. Analysis

Analysis is performed by using SAS statistical package (SAS System for Windows, Version 8.2). Distributions among different variables are compared using test. Multivariate analysis for the 11 comorbidities is performed using the Cox proportional hazards regression model. The hazards ratio (HR) with a 95% confidence interval (95% CI) expresses the probability of occurrence of CSDH in patients with a minor head injury relative to the control. The improvement in fit due to each variable is tested for statistical significance at the 5% level with the log likelihood ratio test. In these analyses, it is considered significant when the value falls below 0.05.

3. Results

Table 1 shows the distribution of the 11 comorbidities in the 28052 adult patients. Patients aged >65 years with minor head injury are more likely to have had comorbidities, including DM (36.2% versus 32.1%, ), hypertension (75.2% versus 70.2%, ), chronic kidney disease (9.2% versus 7.4%, ), chronic liver disease (24.9% versus 21.6%, ), rheumatic heart disease (3.5% versus 2.7%, ), ischemic heart disease (46.8% versus 40.3%, ), Af/AF (5.3% versus 4.8%, ), heart failure (19.1% versus 15.7%, ), peripheral artery occlusion (0.5% versus 0.4%, ), deep vein thrombosis (2.4% versus 2.0%, ), and hydrocephalus (1.5% versus 0.5%, ), and develop CSDH (1.8% versus 0.7%, ).

Variables Patients with minor head injuryControl value

 Female702350.1 702350.1
 Male700349.9 700349.9
 ≤757,456 53.2 7,524 53.6
 >756,570 46.8 6,502 46.4
 DM5,074 36.2 4,496 32.1 <0.001
 Hypertension10,550 75.2 9,852 70.2 <0.001
 Chronic kidney disease1,296 9.2 1,038 7.4 <0.001
 Chronic liver disease3,495 24.9 3,024 21.6 <0.001
 Rheumatic heart disease489 3.5 380 2.7 <0.001
 Ischemic heart disease 6,571 46.8 5,647 40.3 <0.001
 Af/AF749 5.3 676 4.8 0.047
 Heart failure2,677 19.1 2,206 15.7 <0.001
 Peripheral artery occlusion76 0.5 51 0.4 0.026
 Deep vein thrombosis337 2.4 283 2.0 0.028
 Hydrocephalus214 1.5 75 0.5 <0.001
Subdural hematoma254 1.8 93 0.7 <0.001
Followup year (mean ± SD)4.39 ± 3.184.68 ± 3.15

Table 2 compares 347 elderly patients with CSDH versus 27705 elderly patients without SDH with respect to the comorbidities. Patients who have developed CSDH are more likely to be male (65.7% versus 49.7%, ), aged above 75 years (55.6% versus 46.5%, ), and have had hydrocephalus (3.5% versus 1.0%, ) and a history of minor head injury (73.2% versus 49.7%, ).

Variables Subdural hematomaNo subdural hematoma value

 Female11934.3 1392750.3
 Male22865.7 1377849.7
 ≤75154 44.4 14,826 53.5
 >75193 55.6 12,879 46.5
 DM120 34.6 9,450 34.1 0.854
 Hypertension245 70.6 20,157 72.8 0.371
 Chronic kidney disease19 5.5 2,315 8.4 0.054
 Chronic liver disease64 18.4 6,455 23.3 0.033
 Rheumatic heart disease10 2.9 859 3.1 0.815
 Ischemic heart disease141 40.6 12,077 43.6 0.270
 Af/AF12 3.5 1,413 5.1 0.166
 Heart failure4,831 1,392.2 52 0.2 0.231
 Peripheral artery occlusion127 36.6 0 0.0 0.413
 Deep vein thrombosis6 1.7 614 2.2 0.540
 Hydrocephalus12 3.5 277 1.0 <0.001
Minor head injury254 73.2 13,772 49.7 <0.001

Table 3 shows the Cox regression model for predictors of CSDH development among patients with a minor head injury versus those without minor head injury. Because, among the patients with no SDH, none have had peripheral artery occlusion, this comorbidity is therefore removed from the modelling. Patients who have developed SDH following minor head injury are likely to be male (HR 1.96, 95% CI 1.57–2.45, ), aged above 75 years (HR 1.68, 95% CI 1.35–2.08, ), or have had hydrocephalus (HR 2.57, 95% CI 1.44–4.58, ). They are less likely to have chronic kidney disease (HR 0.62, 95% 0.39–0.98, ).

VariablesHR95% CI value

 Male1.96 1.57–2.45 <0.001
 >751.68 1.35–2.08 <0.001
 DM1.18 0.93–1.48 0.173
 Hypertension0.91 0.71–1.16 0.443
 Chronic kidney disease0.62 0.39–0.98 0.042
 Chronic liver disease0.76 0.58–1.00 0.052
 Rheumatic heart disease1.03 0.55–1.96 0.917
 Ischemic heart disease0.89 0.70–1.12 0.312
 Af/AF0.68 0.38–1.22 0.196
 Heart failure0.86 0.63–1.18 0.345
 Deep vein thrombosis0.79 0.35–1.78 0.572
 Hydrocephalus2.57 1.44–4.58 0.001

Table 4 shows the Cox regression model for predictors of CSDH development in patients with a minor head injury versus those without minor head injury, stratified by age (≤75 versus >75 years). Among the patients aged ≤75 years, those who have developed CSDH following minor head injury are likely to be male (HR 1.66, 95% 1.20–2.31, ) but are less likely to have ischemic heart disease (HR 0.57, 95% 0.39–0.83, ). However, among the patients aged >75 years, those who have developed SDH following minor head injury are likely to be male (HR 2.25, 95% CI 1.66–3.05, ) or have had hydrocephalus (HR 2.76, 95% CI 1.41–5.41, ) but are less likely to have chronic kidney disease (HR 0.51, 95% 0.27–0.98, ).

VariablesAge ≤ 75Age > 75
HR95% CI valueHR95% CI value

 Female1.00 1.00
 Male1.66 1.20–2.31 0.002 2.25 1.66–3.05 <0.001
 DM1.24 0.88–1.75 0.221 1.13 0.83–1.55 0.438
 Hypertension0.94 0.65–1.35 0.741 0.88 0.63–1.25 0.476
 Chronic kidney disease0.78 0.39–1.55 0.484 0.51 0.27–0.98 0.042
 Chronic liver disease0.79 0.54–1.16 0.230 0.73 0.49–1.09 0.121
 Rheumatic heart disease1.24 0.45–3.42 0.682 0.92 0.40–2.09 0.839
 Ischemic heart disease0.57 0.39–0.83 0.004 1.21 0.89–1.65 0.224
 Af/AF0.72 0.26–1.98 0.519 0.66 0.32–1.37 0.267
 Heart failure0.94 0.55–1.61 0.815 0.81 0.55–1.19 0.289
 Deep vein thrombosis0.63 0.16–2.56 0.523 0.91 0.34–2.46 0.852
 Hydrocephalus2.04 0.65–6.43 0.223 2.76 1.41–5.41 0.003

4. Discussion

Results from this study are consistent with previous reports that the occurrence of CSDH is associated with old age, male gender, and history of head injury [79]. However, we also have identified that hydrocephalus is another significant risk factor; patients who have had hydrocephalus are two to three times more likely to develop CSDH following a minor head injury. This feature is particularly apparent among those whose age is above 75 years. Although it is not possible to differentiate the subtypes of hydrocephalus by using the ICD-9 codes (331.3, 331.5), the hydrocephalus in the elderly is most likely to be of normal pressure [10], and the diagnostic codes may also imply radiologic features of brain atrophy. The association between hydrocephalus and CSDH could be therefore due to a complication of shunting procedures for normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) [11] and a consequence of vulnerable bridging veins in elder-associated brain atrophy.

Restricted by the ICD-9 code 432.1 for subdural hematoma, it is not possible to differentiate acute versus chronic. However, given that acute subdural hematoma is associated with major head trauma and more likely to occur in younger patients, we believe that, by excluding patients aged <65 years from those who have had a minor head injury, the subdural hematoma in this dataset should represent CSDH. Further, for excluding spontaneous CSDH, the occurrence of CSDH before the minor head injury or five years and above after the minor head injury is excluded. Although the prevalence of CSDH in the control group is 0.7%, that is, 100 times of the reported prevalence as 7.4/100,000 [1], our study showed that the data does not represent the general population and only included CSDH after minor head injury “AND” requiring surgery. The CSDH in patients who are admitted as in- or outpatients without precipitated head injuries is most likely to be associated with spontaneous occurrence or an obscured history of minor head injuries [3] that cannot be included in our study.

We have chosen DM, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, ischemic heart disease, and heart failure as common medical conditions for hospital admissions in Taiwan. We also have chosen rheumatic heart disease, Af/AF, peripheral artery disease, and deep vein thrombosis, on the basis of required anticoagulant therapy, representing subsequent pharmacological coagulopathy, another known risk factor for developing CSDH [7].

The univariate analyses show that patients aged >65 years who have had minor head injury are more likely to have had comorbidities and developed CSDH. However, only male gender, old age (>75 years), and hydrocephalus are predictive factors for developing CSDH in this population demonstrated by the multivariate Cox regression modelling. The chronic kidney disease seems to be a protective factor for the occurrence of CSDH, probably because the patient’s mobility is restricted by the renal replacement therapy or patient’s own understanding of the disease, which may have a limiting effect on the severity of minor head injuries. Likewise, the potential protective effect from the ischemic heart disease could be associated with a reduction in patient mobilization.

Although the data from the NHI does not contain information on treatment modalities and functional outcome, we believe that the information extracted can help identify most vulnerable patients, design potential treatment modalities, and amend health policies. On the basis of our nationwide data, we do not agree with Miranda et al. that CSDH should be considered as a surrogate marker for underlying chronic medical conditions [4]. Instead, our data suggests that patients who are male elderly with shunted NPH are more likely to develop CSDH following a minor head injury, irrespective of their comorbidities. These patients should have frequent neurological and/or imaging followup. Furthermore, both the patients and their caregivers should be alerted to the potential development of CSDH.

5. Conclusion

Analysis of data from the NHI provides important information on predictive factors influencing the early diagnosis of CSDH in elderly patients following minor head injuries. The current study is the first nationwide population-based study in Taiwan, showing that old age, male gender, and coexisting hydrocephalus are significantly predictive factors. Results from this population-based study are very helpful for comparison with those of other hospital-based studies and for public health purposes. Therefore, for more cost-effective allocation of health resources, the clinician may consider following up this high risk population more frequently after their minor head injuries and both the patients and their caregivers should be well informed of the potential development of CSDH.


95% CI: 95% confidence interval
CSDH: Chronic subdural hematoma
DM: Diabetes mellitus
HR: Hazards ratio
ICD-9: International Classification of Diseases 9th Edition
NHI: National Health Insurance.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.

Authors’ Contribution

Jen-Ho Tseng and Ming-Yuan Tseng contributed equally to this work.


The authors would like to thank Mr. Ed Merchant for his assistance with this paper and also thank the Research Office for Health Data, Department of Education and Research, Taipei City Hospital, Taiwan, for their valuable contributions in data management and statistical analysis.


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Copyright © 2014 Jen-Ho Tseng et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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