Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is more common than most people realize. The current number of people living with disabilities from TBI exceeds 5.3 million.(1) Some suffer mild complications such as difficulty with concentration. Others are unable to function independently and require full-time care.
Many people assume these brain injuries happen only when a person suffers a direct blow to the head and loses consciousness. This misunderstanding may stem from the fact that most brain injuries result from car accidents, firearms and falls. Such events often involve damage caused by blunt force to the head, which is likely the reason for the public misconception.
Even when no direct blow strikes the head, a car accident or other sudden deceleration can jar the brain. An injury may occur even without loss of consciousness. The soft tissue of the brain suffers damage anytime it contacts the inner wall of the skull, whether that is from external impact or sudden deceleration.
Even mild traumatic brain injuries can cause serious long-term consequences. Such injuries can be exceptionally dangerous when the mild symptoms lead the injured to believe continued high-risk activities are safe. Unfortunately, a second impact, even after a slight injury can cause serious permanent injuries, even death.
Types of Injury
Young adults are often involved in serious car crashes or suffer sports injuries and the elderly are prone to falls. As a result, these two groups are the most likely to suffer traumatic brain injury. Each type of incident is likely to result in a different type of brain injury. Patients may suffer from open head injuries, deceleration trauma, hypoxia or anoxia (oxygen loss), tumors, infections or stroke.
Open Head Injuries
An open head injury happens when a portion of the skull is penetrated. In some cases, a closed head injury will be treated by purposefully removing a portion of the skull to make room for swelling. If the brain swells within the skull cavity and has no room to expand, serious permanent damage, even death, can result. Only a direct impact can fracture the strong bones of the skull. All other types of head injuries are called “closed head injuries.”
Deceleration can often cause brain injury without any direct impact to the skull. When the soft tissue of the brain is forced against the hard inner surface of the skull, broad sections of the brain experience injury. In most instances, the brain collides several times with the skull surface, caught in the motion of the protective fluids that surround it. Brain tissues become alternately stretched and compressed. In some cases, nerve connections can be stretched so far that they break, a condition known as axonal shearing. When this shearing happens to many areas of the brain, the effects can be deadly.
Hypoxia and Anoxia
Hypoxia refers to a lack of oxygen. In the brain, hypoxia prevents cells from getting the oxygen they need, leading to brain damage. Any event that reduces blood flow or the level of oxygen in the blood can cause permanent brain injury. Anoxia is the term used when there is a total lack of oxygen to brain cells. Depending on a patient’s age and medical condition, anoxia can kill within seconds or minutes. Infants can suffer severe brain damage if they lose oxygen for even a few seconds. Anoxia can come from childbirth complications, chemical exposure, drug overdose, injuries and many other sources.
Tumors, infections and stroke are natural causes of brain damage. Unfortunately, these causes sometimes come from human sources, including defective drugs, environmental pollution, and medical malpractice.
Cancer tumors can grow in the brain, invading the space occupied by healthy cells and cutting of their blood supply. Some drugs or types of pollution can cause brain tumors or brain cancers. A doctor may accidentally damage the brain if he errs when treating a brain tumor.
Infections in the brain and surrounding membranes can be deadly. Although some naturally occurring diseases lead to infections like meningitis, they can also come from inadequate sterilization during surgical procedures.
Any time that blood stops flowing in the brain, a stroke occurs. The most common culprit is a blood clot, but other causes exist as well. Cells die in the area that lacks blood. Stroke is often accompanied by bleeding in the brain when an artery or vein tears. Stroke can be a side effect of many drugs.
If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury from one of these causes, contact our office for a free consultation. You may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries.