Subdural effusion

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A subdural effusion is a collection of fluid trapped between the surface of the brain and the outer lining of the brain (the dura matter). If this fluid becomes infected, the condition is called a subdural empyema.


A subdural effusion is a rare complication of bacterial

. Subdural effusion is more common in infants and in persons who have .


Exams and Tests

The doctor or nurse will examine you. Tests include:


Surgery to drain the effusion is often necessary. Rarely, a permanent drainage device (shunt) is needed to drain fluid. Antibiotics may need to be given through a vein.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery from a subdural effusion is expected. If neurological problems continue, they are generally due to the meningitis, not the effusion. Long-term use of antibiotics is usually not necessary.

Possible Complications

Complications from surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Brain damage
  • Infection

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your child has recently been treated for meningitis and symptoms continue
  • New symptoms develop


Koshy A, Roos K. Infections of the nervous system: bacterial and fungal. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 53C.

Swartz MN, Nath A. Meningitis: bacterial, viral, and other. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 420.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/3/2014
  • Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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