Each year, approximately 2 million people sustain an injury to the head. Though many of these injuries are minor, over half a million of them require hospitalization and unfortunately, every five minutes someone loses their life to a serious brain injury.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) results from a direct blow to the head or significant force to the brain, as in sudden acceleration or deceleration, that causes damage to the individual neurons. Concussions are a commonly overlooked form of brain injury, but they can be quite serious. Concussions and other brain injuries can result in dramatic lifestyle changes for the injured person and their caregivers.
Common Types of Trauma to the Brain
Each and every brain injury is unique, but certain types of trauma show up again and again. Some of the most common types of brain injury are explained below.
Nerve damage, shearing or tearing of the axons, in the brain commonly occurs when the brain experiences traumatic acceleration, deceleration or rotation. The extent of the damaged area can be devastating although it sometimes goes unnoticed on standard imaging tests.
Lacerations are what doctors call the tearing of brain tissue or blood vessels. They are caused when the skull breaks and bone fragments tear the tissue or when a foreign object penetrates the skull, cutting the tissue.
Blood clots in the brain are masses of blood inside the brain or between the brain and skull. They put people at high risk of ischemic stroke, brain damage and death if not treated immediately.
Hematoma is how doctors refer to swelling of blood in the brain. Subdural hematomas can be particularly destructive if not treated right away. In subdural hematomas, blood pools between the brain and its surrounding membrane. They can cause increased pressure in the brain, which compresses the brain tissue. The damage is irreparable in some cases.
Piercing injuries are a form of open head injuries where the brain is penetrated. Any time an object penetrates the skull there is heightened risk of infection and severe blood loss.
These injuries to the brain manifest themselves in many ways. Common examples are explained in side effects.
Causes of Brain Injuries
Despite enhanced safety features in newer vehicles, motor vehicle crashes remain the most common cause of deaths related to traumatic brain injuries. Other common causes involve serious bicycle and motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, pedestrian accidents and falling objects striking the head. Accidents can happen in many ways resulting in serious concussion or brain injury.
Mechanics of the Injury
There are many different ways to categorize brain injuries based on how they occurred. If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious concussion or brain injury you should learn as much as you can about the injury. Below are some helpful terms that may make the next visit with the doctor a bit easier to understand.
Open head injuries occur when something penetrates the skull. Closed head injuries occur when the head suffers trauma without any penetration. They can happen when the head is directly hit with an object or when shaken violently.
Coup Contrecoup injuries can be particularly severe because they involve damage to at least two separate areas of the brain. They occur when the brain rocks violently back and forth inside the skull after an impact. Each time the brain hits the inside of the skull, it is susceptible to more damage. This type of injury is common with severe whiplash and shaken baby syndrome.
Direct blows to the head are straight forward. They occur when something hits the head or the head hits something. There is a direct connection between an external object and the head.
Brain injuries can happen without any force or impact to the head as well. Sometimes medical errors can cause brain damage. Cerebral hypoxia is a common example.
Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen to the tissues. It can happen as a result of smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, drug overdose, when a patient is not evaluated and treated quickly enough post injury and exposure to toxic substances.
Common Side Effects of Brain Injuries
The brain is the command center for the human body, so anything can be affected when it is damaged. The most common complaint associated with brain damage and concussion is memory loss.
Brain damage may also result in vision and speech impairment, headaches, disrupted sleep patterns, behavioral changes and loss of motor function. The side effects usually vary depending on which parts of the brain are damaged.
The Three Main Components of the Brain
The cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem/spinal cord are the three main components of the brain. Each part of the brain contributes to a certain function, be it motor, sensory or cognitive.
The Four Lobes of the Cerebrum
The cerebrum is divided into two hemispheres (right and left) and made up of four lobes (frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal).
The largest of the lobes, the frontal lobe, sits in the front of the brain and extends to both hemispheres. It can be thought of as the home of our personalities. It controls cognitive skills such as expression of emotions, problem solving, memory, judgment, smell, behavior and language, and primary motor functions or our ability to move the muscles in our bodies consciously. The frontal lobe is the most common place for brain injury to occur. Changes in personality are the most common indicators of damage to the frontal lobe. Other common symptoms of frontal lobe damage include memory loss, impairments in judgment, mood swings and impulsive acts.
The parietal lobe is involved in comprehension. It integrates information received by visual cues, language, reading and sensations. This lobe helps you navigate as you walk through a room of objects and know to pull away from extremely hot or cold temperatures. Damage to this area of the brain can cause inability to accurately reach for an object with visual guidance, trouble reading, problems with understanding where the body exists spatially, and difficulty multitasking. Less common symptoms include confusion between right and left, reduced mathematical ability and language disorders.
The temporal lobe is responsible for long term memory formation, processing speech, vision, smell and sound. It sorts through all the different sounds you hear and makes sense of the noise so you can understand what people say when they speak. Temporal lobe damage is commonly associated with memory loss and inability to pay attention to what is seen or heard, trouble comprehending language and obsessive behavior.
The occipital lobe processes information received from the eyes. It aids in visual perception and color recognition. Occipital lobe injuries impair how the temporal lobe processes what the eyes see. Damage to this region of the brain can result in limited field of vision, hallucinations, illusions, inability to read, and in severe cases blindness.
The cerebellum, also called the ‘little brain,’ sits below the cerebrum and above the brain stem in the back of the head. It regulates essential motor functions such as balance and coordination, allowing us to have fluid movements. Damage to this area of the brain could lead to loss of balance, unsteady or slowed movements and tremors.
The brainstem connects the brain to the rest of the body via the spinal cord. It controls vital functions such as breathing, blood circulation, transmittal of sensory responses, digestion and heart rate, known as autonomic functions. Autonomic functions are those that happen without conscious thought or effort. An injury to the brainstem can result in severe breathing problems, abnormal heart rates, balance disorders, insensitivity to pain and other sensations, and in severe cases coma or vegetative state.
Importance of Seeking the Medical Attention You Need
Unfortunately, many head injuries go unrecognized, undiagnosed and therefore untreated. It's important to see a doctor after an accident because it is very possible to have a concussion without striking your head or having overwhelming symptoms.
Imaging tests such as MRIs, SPECT, CT and PET scans can help diagnose a brain injury. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness, headaches, recalling people or events, changes in personality and anything else that seems out of the ordinary it would be wise to have a full neurological examination. The last thing you want to do is to wait to see a doctor.
Clearwater Brain Injury Lawyer Jim Dodson Provides Trusted Legal Help for Accident Victims Throughout Florida
Brain injuries change a person's life for the time it takes to heal, and in some cases they are never the same. This can be emotionally and financially traumatic for the survivor and the family.
Just as doctors can provide the medical care you need, a trusted and experienced attorney who has represented brain injury victims and their families is critical to your recovery as well.
We invite you to call us if you are unsure of your rights and want to know what you should do next. Help is just a phone call away.