Brain Injuries

Getting appropriate care for

brain injuries is vital!

Photo by: Dominik Gwarek

Thousands of people all around the United States suffer brain injuries each year. A brain injury can have long-lasting, potentially debilitating effects. However, when brain injuries are treated quickly and correctly, a robust recovery may be possible. Families, caregivers, and those suffering from brain injuries can aid recovery and improve wellness by becoming informed.

Warning Signs of Brain Injury

A blow to the head that causes brain injury may sometimes present no symptoms shortly after the event. Symptoms appear within hours, days, or weeks. Loss of consciousness of any duration may indicate brain injury, but disorientation without loss of consciousness is also common. Headache, nausea, fatigue, vision disturbances, and dizziness are symptoms of brain injury. The sufferer may notice blurred vision, ringing in the ears, or reduced ability to smell.

Causes of Brain Injury

Brain injuries can stem from traumatic and non-traumatic causes. Traumatic brain injury is often caused by a direct blow to the head. When any object penetrates the skull, including a projectile or shard of bone, the brain can be damaged directly. Non-traumatic brain injuries can arise from diseases that cause inflammation of the brain, tumors, bacterial infection, or degenerative conditions. Many non-traumatic brain injuries are facilitated by lack of blood flow and oxygen.

Types of Brain Injury

Each brain injury is a medically unique case. The different kinds of traumatic brain injuries are rated on a scale from "mild" to "severe" based on the extent of the damage and the symptoms experienced. Common brain injuries include:

  • Concussions: A concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury. This describes a direct, forceful blow to the head causing damage to the brain. Concussions can occur in a wide variety of situations, including sports and workplace accidents.
  • Contusions: A contusion consists of a bruise on the brain, usually accompanied by bleeding. Contusions may sometimes need to be removed by a surgeon. If the bleeding is severe, then steps should be taken to ensure fluid does not damage the brain further.
  • Coup-Contrecoup Contusions: This is a subcategory of contusion characterized by a pair of contusions, one at the initial site of impact and one on the opposite hemisphere of the brain. It is the result of the brain being forcefully moved out of place during impact.
  • Diffuse Axial Injury: Diffuse axial injuries are caused by shaking, car accidents, or any other situation where the head might move jerkily or stop abruptly. Since the brain is not as mobile as the head and neck, structures anchoring the brain to the skull become torn.

Non-traumatic brain injuries are also referred to as "acquired" brain injuries. These can be the result of an intruding tumor, a seizure or stroke, a poisonous chemical, or various diseases. They are distinct from traumatic injuries because no direct force is involved. Types include:

  • Anoxia: During anoxia, brain cells die rapidly due to a lack of oxygen. There may be no oxygen at all flowing to the brain, or the blood that is flowing may be insufficiently oxygenated. Anoxia is a complicating factor in cases of near-drowning.
  • Hypoxia: Hypoxic brain injury results from a lack of oxygen to the brain that is not "total," as in anoxia. Generally speaking, this type of brain injury occurs due to a sudden drop in blood pressure or blood flow, often after a major injury elsewhere on the body.

Effects of Brain Injury

The effects of brain injury include physical, functional, and emotional issues:

  • Physical: Physical symptoms result from the brain's lessened ability to direct physical functions. Brain injuries can create problems with coordination, walking, motor control, or performing day-to-day tasks. Mobility aids and other accommodations may be needed.
  • Functional: Sufferers of brain injury often have reduced recall and may experience difficulty concentrating. Due to difficulties with abstract thought, they may manifest a wide variety of symptoms, such as inability to navigate, identify faces, and so on.
  • Emotional: Depending on the type of damage, sufferers may not be fully aware of the impact of their injury, and can be resistant to treatment. On the other hand, those with a brain injury may be susceptible to depression, mood swings, frustration, and dementia.

Recovery and Treatment

Although the brain can sometimes "adapt" and restore some of the function lost to a brain injury, brain damage itself is permanent. Injury sufferers typically benefit from counseling and rehabilitation. Counseling helps restore their confidence in their own cognitive abilities.

If brain injury has led to reduced ability to walk, speak, or use the hands, sufferers will often see improvement through rehabilitative programs, occupational therapy, and exercise. Over time, healthier areas of the brain may begin to orchestrate lost functions to some degree.

Brain injury sufferers might be at enhanced risk of seizures and, over the long term, dementia. Various forms of medication can help control seizures. Neurologists have also made great strides in developing mental exercises that may reduce the risk of dementia.

Emotional support is crucial to the well-being of brain injury sufferers. With appropriate support and assistance, sufferers can regain confidence in their abilities and exercise independence. It is also important to ensure their legal rights are protected.

Other Resources

Categories: Cerebral Palsy

This resource page is provided by Dr. Bruce Fagel for your information. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.