Cerebral compression

 Cerebral compression


Compression of the brain – a condition called cerebral compression – is very serious and almost invariably requires surgery. Cerebral compression occurs when there is a build-up of pressure on the brain. This pressure may be due to one of several different causes, such as an accumulation of blood within the skull or swelling of injured brain tissues.

Cerebral compression is usually caused by a head injury. However, it can also be due to other causes, such as stroke, infection, or a brain tumour.

The condition may develop immediately after a head injury, or it may appear a few hours or even days later. For this reason, you should always try to find out whether the casualty has a recent history of a head injury.


  • Deteriorating level of response – casualty may become unconscious.

There may also be:

  • history of a recent head injury
  • intense headache
  • unequal pupil size
  • weakness and/or paralysis down one side of the face of body
  • speech problems
  • drowsiness
  • noticeable change in personality or behaviour, such as irritability or disorientation.

Your aim

  • To arrange urgent removal of the casualty to hospital.


  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.

If the casualty is conscious:

  • keep them supported in a comfortable resting position and reassure them
  • regularly monitor and record vital signs – breathing, level of response, and pulse – until medical help arrives.

If the casualty is unconscious:

  • Open the airway using the jaw thrust method and check breathing (primary survey)
  • Be prepared to give chest compressions and rescue breaths if necessary
  • If the casualty is breathing, try to maintain the airway in the position the casualty was found.

Related topics

Please note:

These hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid! St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

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