Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Natasha Richardson Dies of Epidural Hematoma

New York City Medical Examiner Issues Report on Cause of Death
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 19, 2009 -- The seemingly mild head injury that killed actress Natasha Richardson was an epidural hematoma, the New York City medical examiner's office announced today.

The death was ruled an accident. Richardson was reported to have slipped and fallen while taking a skiing lesson at a Canadian resort. Although she is said to have appeared unhurt, she later developed a headache and was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

That's entirely consistent with the diagnosis of epidural hematoma, says Eugene Flamm, MD, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.

"It is a common syndrome where someone gets hit on the head, seems fine, and then falls down unconscious," Flamm tells WebMD. "It takes that much time for the pressure to build up on the brain."

The dura is the membrane between the brain and the skull. If blood collects in the area in between, it presses harder and harder against the brain. Eventually it causes herniation: the whole brain shifts.

"When something large makes the brain shift, the blood supply gets cut off and the whole brain dies," Flamm says.

Flamm did not examine Richardson, and he is quick to note that his comments on her case are speculation based on media reports. But Flamm has treated many patients with similar case histories.

"If someone has a significant-size epidural hematoma that you can see on a CAT scan, you would operate and remove it," he says. "Sometimes you see a smaller one, and I don't operate. But that is rare -- I usually operate because of the potential for the brain moving and putting pressure on a vital structure."

From media reports, Flamm speculates that Richardson was already brain dead by the time she reached a local hospital -- well before she was flown to New York.

Despite Richardson's death, Flamm notes that an epidural hematoma is not always fatal and may not even cause lasting brain damage.

"It all depends on how severe the neurological problem is at the time of surgery," he says. "If a patient is deeply comatose, it is more serious than if the symptom is just sleepiness or pain on the side of the head. If there has not been a lot of brain damage, there can be full recovery."

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix