Traumatic brain injury is a very common type of injury seen in victims of traffic accidents, assaults, and similar events. One third of deaths caused by injury were due to a traumatic brain injury. Head injuries not only cause physical pain and damage, but also can leave mental faculties permanently affected. Understanding brain injuries and their complications is important in order to give them the proper treatment.
Closed Head Injury
A closed head injury is defined as any injury to the head that doesn’t penetrate the skull. This is generally caused by a hard blow to the head. Injuries of this type are commonly the result of an assault, fall, or traffic accident. Closed head injuries range from mild to fatal. This type of brain injury makes up about 75% of all brain injuries, and is the leading cause of death for children under 4 years of age.
Medical treatments for closed head injuries depend on the severity of the injury. Mild injuries can be treated with simple rest and over-the-counter medications to relieve pain. Severe closed head injuries, on the other hand, may require more drastic measures, including surgery, diuretics, anti-seizure medications, or even drugs to induce a coma. Surgeries to treat severe closed head injuries vary and may serve the purpose of draining pools of blood in the brain, or to create a small opening in the skull to relieve the pressure caused by brain swelling.
Severe closed head injury patients may require therapy to regain basic cognitive and motor skills. Patients may struggle with basic tasks including speaking, walking, or forming memories, depending on what part of the brain was damaged. The extent of rehabilitation required increases with the severity of the injury.
Concussions are a mild form of closed head injury, and are fairly common. Concussions are caused by a blow to the head, which can occur during things like traffic accidents and sports. Symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, and vomiting.
Treatment for a concussion is relatively simple. The patient is observed carefully to monitor the injury. The patient should also get plenty of physical and mental rest, avoiding activities that require concentration or physical exertion. Symptoms of concussion usually resolve on their own.
A brain contusion is another common type of closed head injury. A brain contusion is essentially a bruise in the brain tissue. Brain contusions differ from concussions in that they are focused in one small area of the brain, as opposed to a concussion where the damage to brain tissue is spread out more or less equally. Symptoms of a brain contusion include weakness, numbness, loss of coordination and memory problems.
Brain contusion treatment is centered around reducing swelling. This can be achieved through medication, or through surgery in severe cases.
Intracranial hematoma is a closed head injury in which the brain is forced against the inside wall of the skull. This results in a pool of blood in the brain or between the brain and the skull. The first symptoms are similar to that of a concussion, but can also cause unconsciousness, lethargy, and seizures.
Intracranial hematoma is a severe form of brain injury, often requiring surgery and extensive recovery time. Surgery to remove the pool of blood is often required. Many different medications may also be given to the patient.
A Diffuse Axonal Injury
One of the most traumatic types of brain injury is a diffuse axonal injury. This injury is often caused by high-speed traffic accidents, and causes permanent nerve damage in the brain. Especially severe diffuse axonal injuries lead to comas in 90% of patients. Treatment for a diffuse axonal injury is centered around stabilizing the patient and reducing pressure inside the skull.
Open Head Injury
Open head injury is the other main type of head injury along with closed head injuries. An open head injury occurs when an object fractures the skull. An open head injury is an open wound, meaning that patients can suffer from infection if they don’t receive proper treatment. Firearm-related incidents account for 40% of all traumatic brain injury deaths in the United States. Open head injuries are also often caused by traffic accidents, workplace accidents, and being stabbed.
Because a large number of open head injuries expose the brain to the outside, patients with open head injuries are are a huge risk for infection. Meningitis is the most common infection contracted through open head injuries. Immediate medical attention is always necessary with this kind of injury.
The first step of treating an open head injury is often to evaluate the wound using technology such as MRI, an ICP, or a CT scan. Antibiotics are often administered to ward off infection. Many open head injury patients require surgery to repair the skull.
Many patients with open head injuries require a large amount of long-term rehabilitation in order to get back important brain functions, such as cognitive thinking. Many different specialists are required in the therapy of an open head injury patient.
Depressed Skull Fracture
A depressed skull fracture is one such example of an open head injury. A depressed skull fracture can occur with a severe blow to the head using a blunt, heavy object. The broken skull fragments penetrate or compress the brain tissue, which can cause severe brain damage.
Diastatic Skull Fracture
Diastatic skull fracture is another type. A diastatic skull fracture is usually seen in infants, and involves the suture lines of the skull being widened. Surgery is usually required to treat this type of injury.
Linear Skull Fracture
A linear skull fracture is possibly the most common kind of open head injury. A linear skull fracture is essentially a crack in the skull. This does not penetrate or place pressure on the brain tissue, so most fractures of this type are minor and easy to treat. Blood vessel damage and cerebrospinal fluid leakage are a couple of complications that can occur with a linear skull fracture.