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Clin Neuropathol. 2004 Mar-Apr;23(2):62-75.

Subdural hematoma (SDH): assessment of macrophage reactivity within the dura mater and underlying hematoma.

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Department of Clinical Neuropathology, King's College, London, UK.



Macrophages are an inherent component of the dura mater, and can be characterised in cases of subdural hematoma (SDH) by their progressive and varying accumulation within areas of damage. Gross and histological methods used to determine the age of SDH are inexact. These are in part due to the active nature of such lesions and the diverse manner in which trauma victims respond to injury. Correct diagnosis has obvious medico-legal implications. However, there is as yet no specific diagnostic method that allows the age of SDH to be reliably determined. This study investigated the progressive and orderly pattern of reactivity of resident and infiltrating dural macrophages that occurs in response to injury associated with SDH.


26 postmortem cases of traumatic SDH were examined with survival times (onset of trauma to death) ranging from a few hours and up to 31 days.


Macrophage reactivity associated with the dura mater and the underlying hematoma was determined using CD68 and MHC class II immunohistochemistry and the qualitative and quantitative findings compared with the presence of iron detected using conventional Perl's Prussian blue method.


The results show that CD68 and MHC class II are differentially expressed within the dura mater and hematoma in SDH, and that the expression of MHC class II is markedly upregulated in the inner aspect of the dura mater within the initial 24 hours following injury. CD68 expression can be detected quantitatively in the hematoma, 24-48 hours after SDH, and within the dura following this period. Linear regression analysis further revealed a significant and positive association between the expression of MHC class II or CD68 antigens and the progressive survival of SDH up to 31 days post-injury, which was not seen with Perl's histochemical method. The expression of MHC class II antigen was a distinguishing, and quantifiable feature particularly localized within the inner aspect of the dura from a very early stage in the progression of SDH. Widespread, diffuse and cellular MHC class II reactivity was particularly noted within the inner aspect of the dura mater in cases of SDH with survival > 10 days. Since only a proportion of this widespread immunoreactivity was accounted for by macrophages (considering CD68 immunoreactivity), a large component of this activity was more likely to be due to the reorganisation and activation of fibroblasts within inner dural layers (dural border layer), known to upregulate expression of MHC class II molecules.


The expression of CD68 and MHC class II antigens provides a more informative picture of the progression of pathology associated with SDH, and may be used in conjunction with other clinicopathological factors, in further investigations that attempt to date SDH according to defined histopathological characteristics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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