March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Published 03/20/2017

A brain injury is classified as the result of trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain that can either be closed or penetrating.  A closed head injury exhibits no cut to the skin while a penetrating head injury is when skin and/or bone of the skull has been broken.  These injuries can range from mild to severe and symptoms can occur immediately following the trauma or they may develop over the course of hours or days.

A doctor uses a number of imaging tools to evaluate, diagnose, and treat head trauma.  A CT scan can be used to detect bleeding, swelling, brain injury, or skull fractures.  MRI is used to view detailed images of the brain, the soft tissue in the head, and the skull bone.  Less common in modern times, X-Ray can be used to assess if there is a fracture in the skull.

Mild traumatic brain injury, more commonly known as a concussion, may be caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or any kind of trauma that causes the brain to shake inside of the skull.  Symptoms vary across patients, but loss of consciousness, confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea, and memory loss are common symptoms of a concussion.  If you’ve recently experienced a trauma and find yourself with any of the symptoms above, get to a doctor as soon as possible to receive treatment.

A contusion, or bruising of the brain tissue, is often associated with swelling and can lead to intracranial pressure (ICP), which is an increase of pressure within the brain and skull.  Symptoms include dilation of the pupils, high blood pressure, and a lowered pulse coinciding with abnormal breathing.  ICP can be the result of a trauma, a brain mass, bleeding in the brain, or fluid surrounding the brain.  Immediate medical attention is required for patients experiencing intracranial pressure and after being diagnosed your doctor can best determine how to treat it.

Bleeding in the brain, or a hemorrhage, is characterized by a sudden severe headache, seizures, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of consciousness.  Hemorrhage of the brain is caused by the eruption of blood vessels in the brain causing bleeding into the surrounding tissue, which can then swell and lead to ICP.  This blood can also form a clot, known as a hematoma, between the skull and the outer membrane of the brain.  A brain bleed can be life-threatening and will likely need to be attended to by a neurosurgeon and may require surgery.

While these are not the only injuries that can do harm to your brain, they are more common.  If you have experienced any trauma to your head, it is imperative that you get to a doctor right away.