Brain Injury FAQs
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What is a Concussion?
Contrary to what many people believe, a concussion is not simply a “bruise” to the brain after bumping the head. A concussion is actually a traumatic brain injury. They arecaused when the head is hit or hits something which results in the brain to rapidly accelerating inside the skull. When the rapidly moving skull comes to an abrupt stop, the momentum of the brain causes it to strike the inside of the skull with great force. This all happens very rapidly, but far from being just a quick event, it initiates processes deep within the brain tissue which may last a lifetime
What Happens Inside The Brain Following A Concussion?
The brain is a highly-organized, extremely complex, and powerful command center of the human body. It governs our emotions, thoughts, memories, learning, intelligence, creativity, movement, speech, our senses and so much more. Its capabilities are amazing. But it is very fragile. The brain is soft and delicate and has a Jell-O-like consistency. Inside the brain are billions of neurons, which communicate signals over long-spindly structures, called axons. The smooth and uninterrupted transmission of these signals over the axons is vital to the brain’s ability to properly control our bodies.
The skull serves to protect the brain from external blows to the head, but when the head or torso is subjected to a sudden force or jolt, the brain forcefully shifts and moves inside the skull, causing the neurons and axons to stretch and even tear. When an axon is torn, it not only disrupts the brain’s ability to communicate its vital signals, but also causes the death of surrounding neurons from toxins which are released when the destroyed axons begin to degrade and deteriorate.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Concussion?
Symptoms of many concussions are immediately visible. Sometimes, however, they become apparent much later. Typical concussion symptoms that appear immediately include headache, confusion, disorientation, loss of consciousness, amnesia about how the injury occurred, dizziness, and others. Symptoms that can occur later include depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, fatigue, visual disturbances, problems with concentration and attention, memory problems, sleep disturbances, as well as changes in mood and behavior.
How Long Does It Take A Concussion To Heal?
Each brain is unique, and each injury is unique. There are also different levels of concussion severity (from mild to severe). The average complete healing time for a concussion is typically 2-3 months according to scientific literature. Getting appropriate medical care, following physician’s orders, and protecting yourself from receiving another concussion while healing from an initial concussion, are crucial to the healing process. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, concussion symptoms can last well beyond the “normal” healing period. In fact, people can suffer these symptoms for months or even years after the event. Suffering concussion symptoms beyond the time that is considered “normal” is called Post-Concussion Syndrome (or PCS). PCS is a serious medical condition that wreaks havoc on a person’s daily life – interfering with work, social life, school, hobbies, and personal relationships. Persistent post-concussion syndrome may be considered a permanent injury and its effects may ripple throughout one’s life.
Have You Or A Loved One Suffered A Concussion Due To Negligence?
If you or a loved one have suffered a concussion due to negligence you need to speak with an experienced brain injury attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.
How Can An MRI Be Used To Diagnose My Brain Injury?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests are used to create pictures of the brain (and other parts of the body) without the need for invasive procedures. There are many ways MRIs can help doctors diagnose, evaluate and monitor brain injuries because they give detailed information that does not show up on CT scans or X-rays.
In a standard MRI (whether open, closed or wide-bore) you lay still on the table throughout the entire test. This allows doctors to see the structure of your brain. A contrast material is used in some instances to emphasize certain parts of the brain more clearly. Different contrasts do different things - some show blood flow, others show infections or tumors - depending on why you are having an MRI.
Different MRIs Serve Different Purposes
Functional MRIs or fMRIs help doctors visualize brain function as you perform certain activities. For example, you may be asked to tap your fingers, speak or listen. As you do each activity a different part of your brain will light up. This allows doctors to evaluate how your brain has been affected by injury or trauma.
A special type of MRI called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) or diffusion MRI shows how water travels along the white matter in your brain. White matter works like telephone wires to transmit communication between different parts of the brain. Sometimes when the white matter is damaged, information will reroute and find a new way to relay the messages within the brain. Other times, the messages are completely lost along the pathway. Because white matter is made up of axons, DTI allows doctors to detect axonal damage (often referred to as diffuse axonal injury) based on abnormal pathways and microbleeds. Standard MRIs do not provide this degree of detail.
3D MRIs allow doctors to rotate the brain and visualize the many parts of the brain in relation to one another. They are better for monitoring growth of tumors and cysts and examining blood flow in many directions. This makes them better for visualizing the intricacies of the brain with its many tiny parts. 3D MRIs are created by taking 2D slices from various angles and combining the pieces to form a single 3D image of the brain.
MRIs can help doctors determine the cause of headaches, diagnose a stroke, check for water in the brain, check and monitor tumors, cysts and infections, and check for symptoms of head injuries. DTI and fMRIs allow doctors to see beyond the structure of the brain and tissue to see how injuries are actually impacting your cognitive functions. In many serious brain cases, you may have the fMRI and the diffusion MRI done at the same time so your doctors can combine the data and get the most accurate picture of your brain functions and impairment. This allows them to create more specific treatment plans and better monitor your progress.
Medical Malpractice In Brain Injury Diagnosis
In order to have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, your surgeon or doctor had to have been grossly negligent in reading and understanding the results of your MRI.
Also, a medical malpractice case must have a witness, an expert in the medical field or related area, that is willing to testify on your behalf. Without one there is no chance of trying, let alone winning, your case.
There is a huge misconception regarding the simplistic nature of winning a medical malpractice claim. There is a lot at stake for the doctor or surgeon making a medical malpractice case very, very complex. They are not going to simply settle in order to keep the case from going to court. Accusations of medical malpractice can ruin a medical care practitioner's reputation and career. They will be more than willing to go to court in order to protect their themselves and definitely don't take medical malpractice accusations lightly. If you don't have a claim of negligence that can be proven you simply don't have a medical malpractice claim.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help If You've Suffered a Brain Injury
Traumatic head and brain injuries can leave someone with a lifetime of potentially serious side effects, and sadly, a full recovery isn't always possible for everyone. Learn more about the long term effects of brain injuries in this free guidebook: The Layman's Guide to Brain Injuries. It may be possible to recover compensation for your injury, but you'll need a personal injury attorney with experience handling brain injury claims. Jim Dodson is just such an attorney. Serving all of Florida from several offices, Jim will fight for your rights if you've suffered a brain injury.
If you have suffered a serious brain injury due to negligence or an accident contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398. We will be happy to answer any questions during your free consultation.
What is a SPECT Scan and How is it Used to Diagnose a Brain Injury?
SPECT scans are extremely useful in the diagnosis process because they allow doctors to see blood flow inside your body. This is essential when it comes to diagnosing brain injuries because each part of the brain handles different cognitive functions and tasks. SPECT scans help identify problem areas in the brain based on blood flow because damaged brain tissue typically uses less blood than healthy tissue.
SPECT Scans Allow Doctors to Monitor Blood Flow Within the Brain
You will receive a radioactive tracer shortly before the scan. The tracer stays in your blood, lighting it up for the scanner. Areas of the brain with heavier blood flow show up as darker colors while areas with less blood flow show up lighter and brighter on the images. By monitoring blood flow within the brain, doctors can spot areas with less than normal blood flow and compare them with your symptoms to locate the damaged part of your brain and diagnose your injury.
SPECT scans are more sensitive to brain injury than both MRI and CT scans, while the cost is roughly the same as an MRI. Often, lesions apparent on an MRI or CT scan show up much smaller than the same lesion when viewed on a SPECT scan. In cases where you have a ‘normal’ reading on an MRI or CT scan but are still suffering from serious brain damage, a SPECT scan is more likely to identify the problem. Because standard MRIs and CT scans show the structure of the brain and not the functions, they are limited in their findings of nerve damage.
As a matter of fact, we are currently helping a client with a brain injury who had a negative MRI and soft tissue swelling on a CT, but upon having a SPECT scan was found to have multiple abnormalities and areas of decreased blood flow. Among other side effects, he is suffering from short term memory loss, depression, narcolepsy and blurred vision.
Many recent studies urge the importance of SPECT scans done on people with brain injuries because of the known limitations of other imaging tests.
If You've Suffered a Brain Injury, and Attorney May Be Able to Help Your Recovery Process
Brain injuries are often serious, and can have significant long term effects on health and well being. If you or someone you know has suffered head trauma, you may benefit from speaking with experienced brain injury attorney Jim Dodson. We have offices throughout central Florida, and are headquartered in Clearwater to provide accident victims the best possible representation. Learn more about the true consequences of traumatic brain injuries by downloading our free guidebook The Layman's Guide to Brain Injuries, or request a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 727-446-0840 today.
How Can a CT or CAT Scan Be Used to Diagnose My Brain Injury?
CT scans are the most commonly used imaging tests. They are a series of X-ray images taken one slice at a time and combined to form images more detailed than a traditional X-ray. They are invaluable in the diagnoses of acute and life threatening problems and often used in emergency rooms when someone arrives with a head injury. They are superior to MRIs for viewing changes in the structure of the brain such as hemorrhages, lesions, subdural hematomas, and temporal bone, skull and face fractures.
CT Scans Are Not Perfect at Diagnosing Brain Injuries
However, they can miss signs of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for various reasons. The findings on CT scans sometimes lag behind the actual injury if the test is performed too soon after the trauma, leading doctors to underestimate the extent of the injury. Damaged axons, which manage the transfer of information within the brain, are microscopic in size but the CT scanner doesn’t reproduce microscopic details so they often go unseen. CTs can also miss small amounts of blood because the images are taken one slice at a time and later combined. If a blood pool or other abnormality is smaller than the width of a slice, 5 to 10 mm generally, it may not show up on the images.
I recently learned of a case where a brain bleed was not discovered until months after the accident even though the patient had a CT of the brain done immediately. It went undetected until the bleeding had gotten severe enough to affect that person’s balance and required a follow up scan.
Even though CT scans miss certain things, they remain the prominent choice of doctors for immediate diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries for their quickness and accuracy in detecting life threatening conditions. A CT scan only takes about 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if contrast is used) to complete the test and be of use for doctors. For someone suffering from a stroke or aneurysm where time is crucial, the CT is a life saver.
In Certain Circumstances, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) May Be More Accurate and Effective
The story changes two to three days after trauma when MRI becomes more accurate at detecting slight abnormalities in the brain than CT scans. As blood ages it becomes denser and can look more like tissue on a CT. MRI scanners do not rely on density, but instead on magnetic charges and radio waves, so the changing composition of the blood does not impair the results.
When looking at the results of a CT scan you will see a grayscale image of the brain. The lighter in color something is, the denser the tissue, fluid or bone is. So, your skull will show up as white and the brain tissue will show up as different shades of gray with any gas or air appearing the darkest. Doctors use these shades to determine which areas are ‘not normal,’ such as a lesion, fluid, air or another mass in the brain instead of standard brain matter.
CT scans are undeniably vital in the diagnoses of potentially lethal injuries. They exist to rule out and diagnose problems that need to be treated immediately. Keep in mind, a ‘negative’ or ‘normal’ CT scan does not conclusively mean there is no brain damage, particularly when the patient has suffered a concussion or loss of consciousness. It is crucial that caregivers and patients carefully monitor and report any physical signs of brain injury (memory loss, balance issues, confusion, etc.) to a physician for a follow-up examination.
Misconception Regarding Brain Injury Medical Malpractice
It's important to note, to have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, your surgeon or doctor had to have been grossly negligent. This means they had to have completely misread or ignored the fundamental findings of your CT scan.
Have you suffered a serious brain injury due to negligence or an accident? You need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398. We will be happy to answer any questions during your free consultation.
I Had A Serious Concussion But The MRI Came Back Negative. What Does this Mean?
The results of an MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging test, while very thorough, don't show every injury in the brain. A ‘normal’ result cannot single-handedly rule out brain trauma.
In some instances, the MRI test may have been performed too soon. The effects of serious concussions are not always immediately apparent. For example, if you have a slow bleed in the brain after an injury, but were given an MRI right away, there may not have been enough blood to cause concern in your results at the time of the test. A follow up MRI taken days or weeks later may show a totally different brain.
In other cases, the MRI doesn’t have the power to see the injuries. The standard MRI scanners used in most ERs can detect blood and lesions as small as 1 millimeter. That sounds really small, but the brain has a lot of even smaller parts. Persons with diffuse axonal injuries often don’t show any indicators of brain injury on an MRI test because the axons in the brain are so tiny (one thousand times smaller than a millimeter) the tests can’t even detect them.
The brains of people with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Schizophrenia, and Parkinson ’s disease would all appear to be normal based on MRI or CT imaging, but we can all agree there is something wrong in those brains.
Simply put, a negative MRI does not mean you don’t have any brain damage. If you are experiencing symptoms of a serious concussion or brain injury after an accident, speak to your doctor about your concerns. Please note, to have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, your surgeon or doctor had to have been grossly negligent, completely misreading your MRI.
Have you suffered a serious brain injury? You need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Jim Dodson Law is here to help. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398. We will be happy to answer any questions during your free consultation.
How Long Does A Traumatic Brain Injury Typically Last?
There are many popular misunderstandings about brain injuries. Some people want to dismiss them as a simple”head injury” or concussion, as if this makes them sound like something minor. Too many people mistakenly believe recovery from a brain injury occurs rapidly and recovery is always complete.
On average, about half of the patients who have been diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury should expect to recover fully within about a month. About 80 to 90% should recover within 6 to 12 months. However, there is a very distinct group who will continue to suffer persistent symptoms for additional months and years.
There are risk factors for people who have a higher likelihood for long lasting consequences from a mild traumatic brain injury. Those risk factors include persons over the age of 40, anyone who has struggled in school, females, and those with a history of alcohol abuse, prior head injury or multiple traumas.
It can never be assumed that someone who’s been diagnosed with even a mild traumatic brain injury will quickly or fully recover. Many times the outcome will not be known for quite some time. This is why it is so important the symptoms be described to a doctor so they are accurately included in the patient’s medical record. There are important medical treatments that may be used to help with the symptoms. Medical tests, including different types of MRI, may also be used in confirming the diagnosis of a head injury.
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What is a Brain Injury and is a Concussion Considered a Brain Injury?
A brain injury is caused by damage to the individual neurons that make up the function of the brain. These neurons are damaged when the brain suffers injury from something striking the head, the head striking another object, or from an acceleration/deceleration motion of the head causing the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. Brain injuries are common in car accidents, cycling crashes and falls.
Even Seemingly Minor Concussions Should Be Treated As Serious Brain Injuries
Most of us are accustomed to hearing the term concussion which we associate with a sports injury or fall. Many people assume a concussion is not a big deal and the symptoms will pass. But, a concussion is a form of brain injury and must be taken seriously.
Injuries to the brain are called traumatic brain injuries. They are classified as mild, moderate or severe. Even mild traumatic brain injuries can have profound lifelong effects on brain function and someone’s quality of life. A traumatic brain injury occurs when there has been a traumatic physiological disruption of brain function. This disruption of brain function may be observed in one of the following common ways:
- Any period of loss of consciousness;
- Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
- Any alteration of mental state at the time of the accident (feeling dazed, disoriented or confused); or
- Any focal neurological deficit (injury to a nerve of the brain or spine for instance.)
Emergency medical personnel (EMS or emergency room) will evaluate someone who’s been involved in an accident using a Glasgow Coma Scale to measure their brain function and awareness. The highest score a person may have is 15. A person may be classified as having a mild traumatic brain injury if their Glasgow Coma Scale is between 13 and 15 within 30 minutes of an accident, their loss of consciousness (if any) was less than 30 minutes and any posttraumatic amnesia (their inability to remember events before or after the accident) lasts less than 24 hours.
Anyone who has suffered a blow to the head or a significant acceleration/deceleration of their head in an accident and shows any of these symptoms should be carefully evaluated at the earliest opportunity by physician. A brain injury can become a serious permanent injury and be a very important part of evaluating someone’s case after an accidental injury.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury & What are the Consequences?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) results from a traumatic event effecting the head and brain. This results from a direct blow to the head or significant force to the brain as in a sudden acceleration/deceleration. TBI produce symptoms including visual disturbance, confusion, dizziness, headache, tinnitus (ringing of the ear), lack of energy, sleep disturbance, mood instability, attention deficit, difficulty with concentration, and a loss of sense of trust.
What Type of Accidents Cause Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)?
The National Institute of Health reports half of all traumatic brain injuries,TBI, are caused by car collisions, motorcycle crashes and bicycle accidents. Among older people, falls are the leading cause.
Which Age Groups are the Highest Risk for TBI?
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reports the two age groups at highest risk for traumatic brain injury are children ages 4 and under and young adults, 15-19 years of age.
What are the Long Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of TBI. According to one study, about 40% of those hospitalized with a TBI had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury. The most frequent unmet needs were: improving memory and problem solving; managing stress and emotional upset; controlling one’s temper; and improving one’s job skills.
BI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.