Common Brain Injuries
Typical brain injuries are typically caused by a traumatic injury to the brain. When a traumatic brain injury occurs, it is due by an external physical force or by internal damage, such as lack of oxygen or tumor. Typical brain injuries may result in impairment of cognitive abilities and physical functioning, which may be temporary or permanent. These impairments may cause partial or total functional disability or psychosocial maladjustment. There are several types of common brain injuries that hospitalize over 1.7 million Americans each year.
A concussion is typically the result of a blow to the head, which causes the brain to slam against the skull. Though concussions do not cause any structural damage to the brain, temporary loss of functioning may occur. Symptoms of a concussion may include headaches, sleep disturbances, and memory loss.
A contusion is a more serious blow to the brain, which may result in bruising of the brain and more noticeable loss of functions. Contusions may cause bleeding or swelling in the brain and professional medical care is required for this injury.
A skull fracture is a serious injury to the head which causes damage to the skin and the bone of the skull, as well as to the brain. This type of fracture often causes pressure or injury to the brain. The bone fragment may also cut the dura mater, a relatively cohesive covering over the brain, which may cause a cerebrospinal fluid leakage, blood or bruising behind the eardrum or eyes, nerve damage, and loss of hearing, smell, or vision. Professional medical care is required as computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain are needed to identify skull fractures. Surgical repair of the skull fracture is required in these cases.
A hematoma is a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel in the brain. Hematomas occur when the wall of a blood vessel, artery, vein or capillary has been damaged, causing blood to leak into other brain tissue. Just a drop of blood in an area it does not belong can cause significant swelling in the brain. A hematoma may occur between the skull and the covering of the brain known as the epidural, or between the membrane covering the brain, known as the subdural, and the brain itself. Hematomas require professional medical care and in most cases require surgery.
Coma is defined as a state of deep unconsciousness that lasts for a prolonged or indefinite period, caused by a severe injury or illness to the brain. A person in a coma does not respond to external stimuli. The eyes remain closed, and there is no speech, and the person cannot obey commands. Coma can last a few hours to several days depending on the severity of damage done to the brain. In severe cases, it is possible for a person to remain in a comatose state for months or even years. A person in a coma may eventually open their eyes, however, if they remain unresponsive, the person could be permanently in what is termed a “vegetative state.”
Medical stabilization happens when brain injury patients require time in the hospital for medical treatment, such as recovery from surgery, healing of wounds, and setting of fractures. This can take up to several days to several months. Most victims of these common brain injuries will be treated in the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The injury will be diagnosed, and appropriate care will take place. In some cases, 24-hour monitoring of the condition and care may be required. These patients are treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital. Patients may be transferred from the emergency room or ICU to a medical floor for observation, medical treatment and the beginning of rehabilitation services such as physical therapy.