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Bret Michaels: Subarachnoid Hemorrhage Explained

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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(Please see the comments section for updates on this story. Bret Michaels has been released from Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, and is now in an outpatient rehabilitation program.)

Rock singer and reality TV personality Bret Michaels remains critically ill after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage, prompting some to wonder what causes this condition as well as the prognosis for recovery.

The 47-year-old Michaels appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” and was the lead singer for the 80’s rock band “Poison.” He was rushed to a hospital on Thursday, April 22 after complaining of a severe headache. Doctors diagnosed a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. On Sunday, April 25 his doctors said he was in critical condition and is conscious and talking with slurred speech.

What exactly is a subarachnoid hemorrhage? This means a person is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. This area is called the subarachnoid space. Another way to describe this condition is as a type of stroke that occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and blood quickly fills the area immediately surrounding the brain and spinal cord - the subarachnoid space. This space contains cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions and bathes the brain and spinal cord. This life-threatening condition, which requires emergency medical care, may increase the pressure around the brain and can interfere with its function.

About 30,000 Americans suffer from a subarachnoid hemorrhage every year, with most patients between the ages of 35 and 65. It’s usually caused by:
• Serious head injury
• Rupture of cerebral aneurysms and other blood vessel deformities at the base of the brain (spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage); such defects are usually present since birth.
• Bleeding disorders
• Illicit drug use ( especially cocaine and amphetamines)

The main symptom is a severe headache that starts suddenly and is often worse near the back of the head. Patients often describe it as the "worst headache ever" and unlike any other type of headache pain.

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Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Bret Michaels Medical Update 5/04/10

Bret Michaels has been released from the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The lead doctor treating Michaels, Dr. Joseph Zabramski, said at a news conference today that he recommends Michaels wait at least four to six weeks before resuming normal activity. Doctors wouldn't say when Michaels was released or whether he was sent home or to a rehabilitation facility.

Zabramski said Michaels is receiving therapy and continues to suffer from the effects of blood that pooled under his brain and is now dissolving. Two tests showed that Michaels did not suffer an aneurism, so doctors are unsure what caused his brain hemorrhage.

"He's improving and I expect him to continue to improve," said Zabramski. "I really expect that he will fortunately make a 100 percent recovery. He's just one of those lucky people – 10 to 20 percent who make a complete recovery and can resume all of their normal activities."

May 4, 2010 - 1:46pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Bret Michaels Medical Update 5/02/10

Doctors at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. plan to hold a news conference on Tuesday, May 4, to update the public on his condition.

"There is no doubt that Mr. Michaels' condition is serious. We are treating the subarachnoid hemorrhage, which caused his severe cranial pain," says Joseph Zabramski, a top neurosurgeon at Barrow Neurological Institute since 1986 and leader of Michaels' team. Zabramski says "Michaels will continue to undergo testing, considering we have hit a few roadblocks including hyponatremia, severe cranial and back pain suffered from blood drainage, an emergency appendectomy performed a week earlier and a lifelong history of Type 1 Diabetes."

However, "Bret's sheer will to live and fully recover is undeniable," says Zabramski. "He has an unbelievable fight in him and told me what kept him alive at the moment of the hemorrhage was that he 'did not want his family to wake up and see him lying unconscious in the middle of the floor.' It was a combination of Bret's fight to stay conscious during the hemorrhage and get to the emergency room, and the immediate medical attention provided by our staff at Barrow, that enabled us to stabilize his condition."

May 2, 2010 - 7:03am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Bret Michaels Medical Update 4/28/10

Test results indicate a setback in Bret Michaels condition - a side effect from the brain hemorrhage called hyponatremia which is a lack of sodium in the body which leads to seizures.

Due to the severity of his condition, Bret Michaels continues to remain hospitalized in an intensive care unit at an undisclosed hospital. He remains in critical but stable condition according to his doctors.

Michaels' medical workup demonstrated findings of a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of stroke that causes bleeding in the fluid-filled spaces around the base of the brain. It presents itself suddenly as the sound of a loud gunshot or thunderclap at the back of the head causing severe cranial pain and muscle spasms. Many people are speculating Michaels head injury suffered from a prop striking the singer at the Tony awards last June is the cause. Additional studies are planned throughout the week to hopefully detect the exact cause of the rupture. Coupled with the fact that Michaels is a lifelong Type 1 diabetic and has recently undergone emergency appendectomy surgery while on tour in San Antonio, he will remain monitored closely by his medical team to make sure no complications occur from the diabetes.

The most common cause of this condition is a spontaneous rupture of a cerebral aneurysm, however, 15 to 20 percent of spontaneous episodes of this hemorrhage are found to have no cause. Michaels has undergone a continuous series of tests while in the ICU including angiograms, CT scans, MRI’s and transcranial dopplers (TCD's). Doctors state Michaels is very lucky as his condition could have been fatal. With further testing and rehabilitation, they are hopeful that Bret will gradually improve as the blood surrounding the brain dissolves and is reabsorbed into his system, which can be a very painful recovery and take several weeks to months. Michaels remains under 24-hour observation in the ICU and is in positive spirits. He is responding well to tests and treatments. Doctors remain hopeful for a full recovery.

April 28, 2010 - 8:39am
EmpowHER Guest


My best girlfriend (back in Michigan) was 33 years old in 1988 when she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Later, Patty described her symptoms - a headache all day and "You know I never get headaches, Sunny." Initially she thought the headache was from work stress. (A few months earlier, she received her law degree and joined a law firm.) Later in the evening, while watching TV with her fiance Patty experienced numbness in her legs. She decided to go to bed but doesn't remember much after this. According to her fiance, she collapsed at the foot of the bed. He called paramedics.

In the ER, doctors initially thought it from a cocaine overdose. She wasn't a user. Nevertheless, treatment was postponed until cocaine use was ruled out. She remained in a coma for three weeks.

After two years of physical and speech therapy, she was able to walk without a walker and speak with little difficulty. Seizures, which she usually experienced in the mornings ,was and is controlled by medication. The "stroke" affected her right side.

Today, she walks with a limp and has little use of her right arm and hand. She can no longer read a book (she was an avid reader) and has trouble "finding words." But at most times, I can finish her sentences since we've been "sisters" all these years. :-)

About 10 years ago, she was hired by a card shop, where she still works part time. She stocks cards in the slots with one hand and learned to use the cash register. And although her life changed in a split second and her fiance departed, Patty is happy. She's been healthy, considering.

What concerns me most, however, is that in the past 1 1/2 years, she's fallen. One time, breaking her foot and more recently, her leg. I'm hoping these are "just" accidents and not related to balance issues. I pray for her everyday.

April 27, 2010 - 1:12pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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