IMPORTANT COVID-19 UPDATE : All AICA Orthopedics clinics are fully staffed and operational. We’re here to support accident victims and to provide Orthopedic relief to hospital systems in Atlanta during this crisis. Learn More

Traumatic Brain Injury

When you think of a brain injury, you may think of the most severe circumstances and the kind of tragedy you see on television. This can certainly be the case, but suffering from a traumatic brain injury is actually much more common than you may think. Some cases are severe and life-threatening, but some are milder and can be managed easily. But in any scenario, potential injury to the brain should be treated promptly and seriously.

The brain sits behind the shield of your skull, which is made of unusually strong bone in order to protect the vital organ. In addition, it sits in spinal fluid within the skull that helps to absorb any shock or force that could impact the brain. These mechanisms are important because the brain is the control center of the entire body. Every process that keeps us healthy and alive, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep regulation, relies on the brain functioning properly without disturbance.

Any potential traumatic brain injury should be evaluated as soon as possible by a specialist like the neurologists at AICA Tucker.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden, external, physical force causes damage to the brain. This can include the head hitting a hard surface, being hit by a flying object, or a violent shake that moves the brain within the skull. It can also come along with other car accident injuries. There is no congenital reason behind a traumatic brain injury, but instead, it is brought on by a singular incident outside of the body. Any impairment of cognitive, physical, or psychosocial function, even temporary, is considered damage brought on by these injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries can be sorted into two categories. A closed brain injury occurs when there is no break in the skull and nothing is penetrating the brain. Instead, it is when the brain is damaged by contact with the skull or external impact, leading to bruising or tearing of tissue and blood vessels. A traumatic brain injury can also be penetrating, when there is a break in the skull that allows something to pierce the brain.

These injuries are also classified as either a primary or secondary brain injury. In a primary brain injury, a sudden and profound injury to the brain occurs and is complete upon impact with no further catalyst for damage. A secondary brain injury refers to changes that occur in the time after a primary brain injury. A series of steps or stages of cellular, chemical, tissue, or blood vessel changes may occur and cause further damage in that time.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

There are a number of ways a brain injury can occur, though some are more common than others.

When a traumatic brain injury is in response to a blow, it is commonly after an event like a car accident, sports injury, or a slip and fall. In these cases, the head hits a surface forcefully, leading to the damage. Even simple accidents like hitting your head on a door or table can lead to these injuries as well.

Shaking or violent movement can also cause a traumatic brain injury by moving the brain enough that it collides with the hard skull. This is what occurs in shaken baby syndrome and other violent instances, but it can also occur in situations like a car accident. The same sudden backward and forward motion that causes whiplash can jostle the brain and lead to problems.

Penetrating brain injuries almost always involve an external object, like a bullet or something that can cause impalement. If the skull is broken properly, the skull itself can become the penetrating object, but it is most commonly something outside the body causing the injury.

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injuries

In some cases, like a penetrating brain injury, there may be physical signs of the problem that tell you the brain needs to be carefully and quickly assessed. Bruises or cuts may also indicate an impact. However, there is generally no external sign of even severe traumatic brain injuries, meaning symptoms need to be observed over time. Symptoms can fall into a range of categories depending on the location and severity of the injury.

Regulatory disturbances may be some of the most obvious to a victim, as headaches, dizziness, sleep trouble, and a loss of bowel or bladder control are easily observed. Other signs may be best recognized by an observant loved one.

Cognitive deficits are common and may include:

  • Coma or loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss, especially surrounding the accident
  • Shortened attention span
  • Trouble with problem-solving and judgment skills
  • Loss of sense of space and time
  • Inability to perform complex tasks or thinking

Motor deficits can include:

  • Paralysis or weakness in parts of the body
  • Poor balance
  • Decreased endurance
  • Trouble planning and coordinating movement
  • Tremors
  • Trouble swallowing

The senses can also be impacted, with a loss or change in hearing, vision, taste, smell, or touch. This commonly appears on only one side of the body. Vision problems are particularly common, like double vision or blurred vision. Communication may also be impacted, with injuries to the frontal lobe often causing trouble speaking or understanding speech, trouble choosing words, reading, or writing, and a sudden loss of vocabulary range.

Social difficulties that did not exist before and changes to the personality are also common.

Diagnostics

MRI

Your head pain needs to be properly diagnosed, beginning with an MRI to assess if there is anything damaged or out of the ordinary about the soft tissue of the head, neck, and sinus areas.

LEARN MORE
CT scan

If you are suffering from a traumatic brain injury, your doctor will likely want to confirm their suspicions with various tests such as the CT scan, which will create a composite image of the brain using different angles of cross-sections.

LEARN MORE

Diagnosing and Treating a Traumatic Brain Injury

Any chance that you have suffered a brain injury is a reason to seek immediate medical care. A diagnosis will typically be made quickly using a combination of discussing your accident and symptoms, neurological exams, and diagnostic imaging. These tools can help your doctor determine if emergency care is needed, and if not, what the best course of action is based on the type and severity of your injury.

If your brain injury is mild, like a concussion, the primary treatment is rest and observation. Rest includes physical rest like avoiding physical activity and getting extra sleep along with mental rest, pausing work, and critical thinking activities where needed. You may also be asked to reduce screen time. While this may feel like your injury healing on its own, rest is important and you should closely follow guidelines on when to resume activity.

For moderate to severe brain injuries, the first goal will be to stabilize your condition and prevent further injury. Your blood pressure may need to be managed with the pressure in your skull being monitored as efforts to ensure the brain gets enough blood and oxygen. Some injuries will be managed with medication to reduce the chance of seizures or muscle spasms that could worsen your condition, while others may necessitate rehabilitation therapies to restore physical and cognitive functions. Serious issues like a skull fracture or hematoma can also require brain surgery.

Specialty Care for Head Injuries

If there is any chance you have suffered a brain injury, seeking expert care is crucial. Ruling out or identifying serious conditions as soon as possible will improve the prognosis for any injury. At AICA Tucker, our neurologists have access to a range of other experts and onsite diagnostic imaging tools in order to make efficient and informed diagnoses and create comprehensive treatment plans.

Any head pain or sign of brain trauma is a reason to contact AICA Tucker today to begin the process of diagnosis and treatment of potential traumatic brain injuries.