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More Than a Hard Knock: Identifying Brain Injuries

March 5, 2018
Published in: Neurology

3D model of the Human brain

Head injuries are often some of the scariest injuries to occur. With car accidents, falls, or other trauma, a possible head injury is one of the primary concerns for doctors. But even a seemingly innocent head bump or "hard knock" could lead to a more serious brain injury. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Take the time to get the facts so that you can be vigilant in understanding these types of injuries.

Brain Injury Overview: Different Types of Brain Injuries

Though there are many types of brain injuries, there are two general categories called traumatic brain injury (TBI) and acquired brain injury (ABI). These have further categorizations into four types of common brain injuries: anoxic, contusion, concussion, and infection.

Causes of Brain Injuries

TBIs happen when there is either a tear or stretching of the brain tissue due to a substantial head impact. Common occurrences of TBIs happen in sports games, car crashes, accidents, falls, trips, or even because of violent events. Overall, they are involved in about 30% of injury-related deaths. Falls account for over 40% of all TBI related incidents and disproportionately affect the youngest and the oldest in the population. Auto crashes are the leading cause for TBI-related deaths for those between the ages of 25 to 64 years old.

ABIs, or acquired brain injuries, happen due to circumstances such as ingestion of toxic or poisonous substances, strokes or heart attacks, aneurysms, or tumors, drowning or choking, strangulation, or infections like meningitis. They are injuries to the brain that happen after birth and do not result from force trauma.

Within these two main categories are the four brain injuries seen more frequently in every-day situations. A variety of situations can cause an infection, but they often cause the brain to experience either mild or severe dysfunction. Concussions typically occur as a sports-related injury or because of a severe fall or crash. Contusions result from ruptured blood capillaries and are known more commonly as bruises. Anoxic brain injuries are the result of loss of oxygen to the brain because of events like strangulation or drowning.

What Are the Symptoms?

The number one indicator of a brain injury is the impairment of normal abilities. Brain injuries can also cause flu-like symptoms such as upset stomach, fever, and chills. Concussions as well as contusions have been associated with symptoms such as changes in vision or hearing. Changes in motor functions and speech may often accompany acquired brain injury.

Brain Injury Diagnosis

Surgeons operatingTesting and diagnosis of brain injuries begins with the Glasgow Comma Scale, and then through image tests or intracranial pressure monitoring. The Glasgow Comma Scale is a test consisting of 15 points in which emergency medical officials and doctors observe how well a person's eyes can follow direction, how they react to light, how a person is able to use their appendages, and finally, how they are able to speak.

Image testing comes in one of two forms, computerized tomography scan (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A CT scan is the type used in emergency rooms and consists of several series of x-rays used to detect blood clots, bruised brain tissue or swelling, and even hemorrhaging in the brain. MRI scans send radio waves and magnets through the body creating a different picture of the brain to look for the same symptoms. These tests check the progress of a person or looks for other signs of injury not reported on a CT scan.

Living with A Brain Injury

Those who live with brain injuries know that unlike other forms of injuries, those regarding the brain take time to heal. While some brain injuries are mild and resolve within a few hours, others can have lifelong or deadly consequences. Living with a brain injury means accepting that there may never be a full recovery.

The most important thing to note is that brain injury outcomes are dependent on a wide variety of factors, so what happened for one person, may not happen to another. The type of injury, the location of the injury on the brain, the severity, and the person's overall health are all factors to consider.

Anyone who has had any type of brain injury should stay aware of their situation when participating in sports and other events that could potentially cause harm again. Reoccurring injuries can cause increasingly worse damage. If the injury is serious enough, patients must rely on their family and friends for help and to provide them with support and the understanding that they may not be the same as they were before.

If you are concerned about a brain injury, contact Augusta Health Neurology. Our experienced and compassionate doctors are here to help you.