What to Expect with a Brain Injury

Portrait of Man with Hands on Face

Traumatic brain injury is a serious condition, yet it is one that often goes undetected. Because many of the symptoms of mild to moderate brain injuries are subtle, they are often difficult to detect on modern imaging equipment. This can lead to a delayed diagnosis and prolonged symptoms for traumatic brain injury victims.

Get the facts on what to expect with a traumatic brain injury, including symptoms and potential treatment.

What Causes Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury is caused by a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal functions of the brain or causes it to hit against the inside of the skull. The severity of a brain injury may range from mild to severe depending on the magnitude of the strike to the head.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths increased 53% from 2006 to 2014.

In 2014, falls were the leading cause of traumatic brain injury. Falls disproportionately affected young children and older adults. Other common causes of traumatic brain injury include the following:

There are certain risk factors that make a person more likely to experience a traumatic brain injury. Among traumatic brain injury-related deaths in 2014:

  • Rates were highest for people 75 years of age and older

  • The leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related death differed by age:

    • Falls were the leading cause of death for those 65 and older

    • Intentional self-harm was the leading cause of death for those 45-64

    • Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for those 15-34

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury

Due to the invisible nature of traumatic brain injuries, victims only rarely receive prompt treatment for their physical and cognitive impairment. This has led to traumatic brain injury being known as the “invisible injury.”

Not uncommonly, traumatic brain injury victims’ early medical charts are devoid of any mention of “head injury” or “cognitive impairment.” Typically, a delayed diagnosis is made at a later date when a health care professional validates the victim’s injury and treatment finally ensues.

Although traumatic brain injury symptoms may be subtle, those who suspect they or a loved one has this type of injury should keep an eye out for the following warning signs to potentially decrease the time to diagnosis:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Convulsions or seizures

  • Repeated vomiting

  • Slurred speech

  • Weakness or numbness in the limbs

  • Loss of coordination

  • Dilated pupils

  • Inability to wake up from sleep

  • Fatigue and lethargy

  • Memory problems

  • Persistent headaches

  • Changes in mood or personality

  • Increased sensitivity to light and sounds

These symptoms may appear immediately after the injury is sustained, or hours, weeks, or months later. Anyone who has received a traumatic brain injury but who appears to have no symptoms should still be monitored for 24 hours since the signs of injury may not be apparent immediately. Anyone who begins experiencing the above symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Diagnostic testing for traumatic brain injury has evolved in some areas, such as neuroradiology, and remained stagnant in others, including standard neurological examinations. Research suggests that clinical neurological exams are the least effective tests for accurately diagnosing traumatic brain injuries.

Simply put, these clinical neurological exams study the victim’s responses to motor patterns, which may include their strength and reaction to commands and questions. The problem with this approach is that it assumes the injury does not exist is the examiner cannot see or feel it.

Unfortunately, the limited benefits of this approach often fail to diagnose those suffering from mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. However, the physical consequences and side effects of a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury can be long-lasting and severe.

Neuropsychological testing, on the other hand, is a proven, reliable, and accurate method of testing for traumatic brain injury. Rather than comparing a traumatic brain injury victim to a “normal” person, neuropsychological testing evaluates whether a particular patient has themselves changed.

The rationale for this method of testing is that as a person matures, they develop and utilize the most efficient pathways in their brain. When traumatic brain injury occurs, the victim’s pathways are severed, which makes them unable to properly transmit or receive information. While the victim may still be within the normal population range, they are considered to be outside their “pre-injury” range, which indicates that a traumatic brain injury has occurred.

Prognosis and Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury

Most mild cases of traumatic brain injuries resolve on their own. However, repeated mild traumatic brain injuries can be dangerous or fatal, which is why it’s important for those who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury to see a doctor and get proper rest.

More severe cases of traumatic brain injury may inhibit a person’s ability to care for themselves properly and may require hospitalization or intensive care. Certain medications are prescribed to help traumatic brain injury victims, including:

  • Sedatives

  • Pain relievers

  • Diuretics

  • Anti-seizure medication

  • Coma-inducing medication

Additionally, medical practitioners may recommend surgery in some cases, including procedures to:

  • Remove a hematoma or create an opening in the skull to reduce pressure on the brain

  • Repair a skull fracture that is pressing into the brain

Those who suffer a traumatic brain injury may experience life-long symptoms that range from mild to severe. In some cases, traumatic brain injury victims are unable to live independently or earn an income.

If you or someone you love has received a traumatic brain injury in an accident, do not suffer in silence. At Scarlett Law Group, our trial techniques illustrate to a jury the impact a traumatic brain injury can have on a victim’s health and happiness. We have recovered millions for traumatic brain injury victims that help them and their families pay for unexpected medical expenses and lost wages.

Contact Scarlett Law Group at (415) 688-2176 to learn how we can help you.

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