TBI Solicitors - Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Negligence Compensation Claim Lawyers
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Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury happens when an external force strikes the head causing dysfunction of the brain. Usually it results from a jolt to the head or body or a violent blow to the head. It can also be caused by a penetrating trauma such as when someone gets shot in the brain by a bullet or when a fragment of skull bone enters the brain.
There are generally two injuries that happen to the brain when it is struck or when it is shaken. The first is a �coup� injury in which the brain is damaged at the site of the trauma. There is also a �contracoup� injury, which happens when the brain flops away from the injured side and hits the side opposite the initial injury. A contracoup injury can be even more serious than the coup injury, depending on the location of each force.
Brain injuries from trauma can be divided into mild, moderate and severe. Mild injuries tend to cause a temporary damage to the cells. More serious injuries lead to torn brain tissue, bleeding on the brain and bruising of the brain that can lead to permanent brain injury. Traumatic brain injury can have physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological effects. Some effects happen right away while others take place after weeks, months or years have gone by.
In a mild traumatic brain injury, there can be physical symptoms, sensory symptoms, and cognitive symptoms. The physical symptoms include the following:
- Feeling disoriented, confused, or dazed
- Having a brief loss of consciousness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe headache
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Problems sleeping too little or too much
- Poor balance
Sensory symptoms include sensory difficulties like ringing in the ears, a weird taste in the mouth, blurry vision, sensitivity to sound or light and changes in the ability to smell. Cognitive symptoms include problems with memory or concentration, depression or anxiety, and changes in mood, including mood swings.
Moderate to severe head trauma can initially look like a mild traumatic brain injury but new symptoms develop within the first few hours to days after the head injury. These include the following physical symptoms:
- Headache that worsens
- Loss of consciousness that can last several hours
- Repeated vomiting or ongoing nausea
- Clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
- Dilated pupils�one or both
- Inability to wake up when aroused during sleep
- Coordination difficulties
- Weakness and numbness of the toes and fingers
Cognitive difficulties include severe confusion, slurred speech, agitation and combativeness, or coma.
Children and kids can show different symptoms because they lack the ability to communicate what is going on with them. If the child has had a traumatic brain injury, expect to see things like a change in eating habits, persistent crying that can�t be stopped by consoling them, irritability, attention difficulties, change in sleep habits, loss of interest in toys or a sad or depressed mood.
The major cause of traumatic brain injury is a direct blow to the head or the body. The injury that follows the blow can be a loss of brain cells due to breakage of the cells, tearing of brain structures in a spinning type of injury, brain cell loss in a blast or bullet injury or pressure on the cells of the brain.
A traumatic brain injury can be caused by a fall, such as falling in the bathtub, down stairs, off of ladders or even out of bed. Vehicle collisions can contribute to traumatic brain injuries. This includes car accidents and accidents involving motorcycles, bicycles or pedestrians. Violence can cause traumatic brain injuries and can include gunshot wounds, domestic violence or abuse of a child. This also includes shaken baby syndrome. About 20 percent of traumatic brain injuries happen because of a violent act. Sports injuries can cause traumatic brain injuries. This is a problem that usually involves children and teens. Explosive injuries in combat cause traumatic brain injuries. Pressure on the brain from the blast causes dysfunction of the brain cells. Penetrating injuries can occur in combat or in noncombat situations.
Those at risk of getting a traumatic brain injury are kids up to the age of four, teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, and older adults greater than age 75.
Complications of traumatic brain injury include a prolonged or permanent altered state of consciousness. Complications can include coma that can last days to weeks. The person can wake up and be relatively normal or awaken to a vegetative state. A vegetative state involves being able to open or close the eyes, have some movement but be completely unable to be aware of one�s surroundings. From the vegetative state, a person can progress to a minimally conscious state. The individual has a minimal amount of self-awareness and has some awareness of his or her environment. The patient can then progress to full recovery.
Worse outcomes include a condition called �locked-in syndrome�. The person is awake and aware of his or her surroundings but cannot move, speak, or feel anything. All communication comes through the eyes. Brain death is another possible outcome. It occurs when there is no brainwave activity in the brain and brainstem. Cessation of breathing tubes will invariably result in death of the individual.
Other complications include seizures in a condition called post-traumatic epilepsy. Cerebrospinal fluid can build up causing pressure on the brain. These people need a shunt to drain fluid from the brain on a permanent basis. Skull injuries at the base of the skull can damage the facial nerves and can result in loss of vision, loss of sensation of the face, swallowing difficulties, deafness, double vision or paralysis of the muscles of the face.
Intellectual problems can occur due to diffuse brain injury. Cognitive problems can result in difficulty in:
- Mental processing speed
- Attention to what�s going on
There can be executive functioning problems with an inability to:
- Complete tasks
- Start tasks
- Make decisions
There can be language and communication problems with severe brain dysfunction. These include difficulty speaking or writing, difficulty understanding speech, difficulty organizing thoughts, and problems following conversations. There can be topic selection difficulties in social situations, problems expressing emotions, problems deciphering nonverbal cues and signals, trouble reading cues from listeners, and difficulty articulating speech.
Behavioral changes include problems with a lack of self-awareness, problems controlling behavior, having risky behavior and having difficulty in dealing with social situations. Emotional changes can occur, leading to anxiety and depression, mood swings, lack of empathy, irritability, inappropriate anger, insomnia and difficulty with self-esteem.
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here