What Killed Natasha Richardson – Lessons To Be Learnt


Natasha Richardson - would have been alive today...see text

Actress Natasha Richardson had an innocuous fall while practising skiing on the beginner’s slope. She was reported to have not lost consciousness and was able to laugh off the whole incident soon after. An ambulance that was summoned to the scene was turned back when she appeared to have fully recovered.

But this soon changed an hour later when she developed headaches and appeared disorientated. Within 1 day, she was dead. What was the cause?

Doctors following this case were not surprised at the autopsy results – epidural hematoma, caused by a blunt injury. Epidural hematoma is a type of brain injury caused by trauma where damaged blood vessels within the skull lead to a blood build-up between the outer layer of the brain and the skull. If not identified and treated immediately, this injury can often lead to death because, as blood pools within the rigid skull, the brain is usually forced out through an opening at the base of the skull (coning) causing irreparable damage and brain death.


Types of Blood-Clots in the Brain - EPIDURAL HEMATOMA are clots just underneath the skull but outside the brain covering

A feature of this kind of damage is the phenomenon called ‘lucid interval’- where the injured party acts and appears fine for an hour or so while internally, at the same time, their brain swells or bleeds. This is why people with head injuries are supposed to be monitored for the first 24 hours after an accident. Richardson may have had a better chance had she had taken the ambulance when it arrived and received timely help. In her case, she was not hospitalised till the next day.

There are lessons to be learnt here:

1. Helmets can help prevent this kind of injury (she wasn’t wearing one). This is the same reason why helmets must be worn at construction sites or on the highways.

2.After any head injury, watch out for severe headaches, confusion, erratic behaviour,paralysis or fits that may only appear an hour after; even if initially everything had looked ok.

3.In suspected cases, an urgent CT scan of the brain needs to be done. If epidural hematoma is confirmed, immediate craniotomy by a brain surgeon is often life-saving.

4.Most important of all, in head injuries, there is no substitute for  immediate professional opinion and management. There are only limited things that can be picked up from the internet or first-aid books. Besides, this is a medical emergency and time lost is a life lost.

18 responses

  1. I had a concussion to my head when I slipped on wet floor (it was raining) and didn’t tell anyone about it soon enough. Afterwards, I got a headache that recurs periodically (like, annually) that sometimes develop into a migraine, losing partial vision in such case. I haven’t had it since a couple of years back, is it possible that I’ve recovered?

    doctor2008 says: I learnt a long time ago never to do consultations based on incomplete facts..sorry.Your doctor’s the best person to advise you.

  2. […] done a CT scan immediately after the fall, she may have a better chance to be alive today. Read here for tips on what to do if you or someone you know experience a head […]

  3. Very informative…thank you

  4. If only Malaysians spend time reading sites like yours, they would be more informed on medical matters. Tks.

  5. hallo apa kabar?
    Doctor2008 says: khabar baik!

  6. This is an unfortunate event. I am an avid skier and snowboarder. I bought a helmet after I smacked my head pretty good one time learning how to snowboard. I now wear it every time I ride regardless of how big the hill is. The helmet is warm, has a clip for the goggles, and protects my head. All it takes is one edge getting caught and a sheet of ice or packed snow to cause this sad event.

  7. […] Dr’s tips here on what you must do the next time someone suffers a head […]

  8. Good post. Just a minor beef: all “syockit” asked was whether it was “possible” that recovery had taken place. How is it a problem to answer such an innocuous question? I understand the concern about not giving consultations based on incomplete facts. But the request was not for a “consultation”. The answer could have been, “of course it’s possible, but see your doctor”. Why protest this way?

    Doctor2008 replies: Any solicited opinion given is considered a consultation and there are medicolegal implications, my friend. I stand by my earlier reply(not protest). Thanks for the compliments.

  9. Thank you for this. I am passing this on! It’s terrible to think that she could have lived…

  10. […] What Killed Natasha Richardson – Lessons To Be Learnt Actress Natasha Richardson had an innocuous fall while practising skiing on the beginner’s slope. She was […] […]

  11. my son was hurt on a Sat.2/21 during his hockey game. He was checked into the boards. Two dr.’s checked him out at the game and said he could not continue in the game. He appeared to be ok. Sun. he was extremely tired by Mon. I felt he needed to go to the dr. due to his extreme fatigue. After leaving the Dr.’s office on our way to the hospital for a ct scan he fainted. He was in a comma for 5 days. He had bruising on the right, left and front of the brain. There was nothing you could do but wait… thank GOD he woke up and regained his speech with out in patient re hab. He was home in ten days. It was atrue miracle. People need to be aware and know the facts of head trama.. it’s always worse the day after. Just like a bruise to your arm or leg. GET IT CHECKED, do not wait!!!!

  12. i think her husband – actor liam neeson- would have been very angry and regretted very much if he knew about these facts

  13. the loss of Natasha Richardson makes me think i might wear a helmet next time I go skiing

  14. […] husband is a nurse and works in the ER, he wouldn’t stand for it. However, with the death of Natasha Richardson, one can’t help but be more vigilant when it comes to head injuries. When children are first […]

  15. Tuan Doktor,
    Mohon kebenaran untuk dipetik arikel ini kedalam blog kami untuk menjadi peringatan tentang keselamatan kepala kepada penunggang basikal.


    Doctor2008: Dipersilakan! Harap link kepada blog dikekalkan.

  16. …pinta kebenaran yer!!!!bye

  17. […] Natasha Richardson’s death, in 2008 only proves my point. […]

  18. Having sustained a major head trauma when I was young, this was very interesting. I feel lucky that I skied for so many years without a helmet and got away with it. I always wear a helmet now.

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