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Richardson Died From Clot That Compressed Brain

An unidentified man carries flowers into Natasha Richardson's apartment building in New York.
An unidentified man carries flowers into Natasha Richardson's apartment building in New York. (By Joe Corrigan -- Getty Images)
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Lenox Hill Hospital referred all calls to the company that represents actor Liam Neeson, Richardson's husband. The company did not return calls.

"Typically, epidural hematomas occur in the setting of a skull fracture -- and usually you have to hit yourself pretty hard to get a skull fracture," said Javier Provencio, a neurologist and intensive-care physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Rosseau concurred, saying that "it is a rarity that we see trivial injury causing catastrophic consequences, except in those rare occurrences where there is a skull fracture adjacent to a blood vessel or a patient is on an anticoagulant."

The prescription anticoagulant warfarin and over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen (but not acetaminophen) can promote bleeding and increase the risk of serious complications after head trauma.

A spokeswoman for the New York medical examiner's office would not say whether the autopsy found a fracture.

It is also not known whether Richardson lost consciousness, even briefly, after the fall, which would suggest a forceful impact. News reports said the snow was soft and the temperature was above freezing at the time of the accident.

Richardson, 45, was reportedly being taught by an experienced instructor and was not wearing a helmet. After the accident, the ski patrol was called, and she was taken off the hill in a toboggan, which is standard protocol, according to reports. Reportedly, she was advised to see a physician but said she did not want to.

Physicians used to think that a person had to lose consciousness to have a serious head injury, but research in the past decade has shown that is not true.

A study published in 2000 found that if a person with a minor head injury has a headache, vomits, is older than 60, is intoxicated in any way, has a problem with short-term memory, has a seizure or has an injury above the collarbones, then he or she should have a CAT scan.

In the 2007-2008 ski season, 44 people were killed skiing and nine snowboarding in the United States. There were about 10,000 head injuries, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

Forty-three percent of U.S. skiers and boarders wear helmets, up from 25 percent in the 2002-2003 season. Helmets are worn by 70 percent of children younger than 9, but 32 percent of people ages 18 to 24.

Twenty-six percent of beginners wear helmets, compared with 55 percent of advanced skiers and riders, according to the association's statistics.


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