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Information about brain injuries

Depending on the severity and location of the injury, the effects of a brain injury can range from a minor annoyance to serious and life threatening. The study and diagnosis of head injuries is complex. There may be overt signs of the injury such as loss of speech and motor skills, or there may only be more subtle personality changes. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, contact Newman Bronson & Wallis in St. Louis, Missouri, today to schedule a consultation with a brain injury lawyer who can explain your legal options and help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

Types of brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are generally classified as mild, moderate or severe, based on the injured person's Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) number. The GCS assigns a point value based on particular responses given by the injured person. The majority of brain injuries are classified as "mild." A mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function as shown by any loss of consciousness lasting approximately 30 minutes or less; any memory loss for events immediately before or after the incident, but not lasting more than 24 hours; any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident such as confusion or feeling disoriented; or any focal neurological deficit that may or may not be transient. The Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee of the Brain Injury Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine developed this definition of MTBI.

The causes of brain injuries

Brain injuries can generally be classified by their cause. There are injuries caused by contact and those that are not caused by contact. A contact traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes damage to the brain as a result of an external force to the head. A contact TBI can be a penetrating injury or a closed head injury, and result in brain swelling, bruising of the brain tissue or nerve shearing. If the head is moving at the time of the contact, a contrecoup injury, in which the brain damage occurs on the side opposite the point of impact, occurs as a result of the brain slamming into that side of the skull. There can be a severe injury to the brain even if there is not any external evidence of damage. Contact traumatic brain injuries may be caused by:

  • Sports mishaps
  • Work-related accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Car, truck and motorcycle accidents
  • Violence or assault

Contact is not necessary to cause a brain injury. A person does not need to hit his or her head or be rendered unconscious to have a brain injury. Brain injuries happen frequently when a person has suffered from a non-contact injury such as whiplash.

In addition, parts of the brain may be injured as a result of medical emergencies such as stroke or heart attack. Stroke and heart attack may affect the brain's blood and oxygen supply, causing localized or even widespread brain damage. In addition, the brain may be injured as a result of oxygen deprivation caused by near drowning, suffocation or cardiac arrest. It is important to note that traumatic brain injury is different from these types of anoxic brain injury, in which the brain is deprived of oxygen. Traumatic brain injury results in bruising or swelling of the brain; anoxic brain injury results in brain cells dying because of oxygen deprivation.

The effects of a head injury

The effects of a brain injury largely depend on the severity of the injury and the location of the affected part of the brain. Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include bleeding from the head, confusion, loss of consciousness, lowered pulse and/or breathing rate and drainage of clear fluid from the nose or ears. Symptoms of a concussion include loss of consciousness, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, vomiting, numbness, shock and anxiety. All head injuries have the potential to be serious. Some common conditions of a traumatic brain injury include: concussion, coma, skull fracture, brain contusion, epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma and brain herniation.

When a brain injury is severe, it can dramatically affect the person's ability to return to a normal life. Depending on the location and severity of the injury there may be physical and/or behavioral effects, which are explained more fully on the "Causes and Effects of Brain Injuries" page. A severe head injury can affect a person's ability to work, learn, interact with his or her family and handle daily tasks.

Diagnosing and treating a brain injury

A permanent brain injury may be difficult to recognize and prove. Many of the associated changes in a person's behavior or personality can be subtle. The earlier a brain injury is diagnosed, the earlier a person can begin a treatment program. The following are diagnostic tools used to determine the extent and nature of a brain injury.

  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • PET Scan
  • EEG
  • Psychological and functional tests

Treatment and therapy will depend upon the extent and nature of the injury. For example, a person may need physical and occupational rehabilitation to condition muscles and relearn life skills. Generally, the earlier treatment begins, the better.

Contact a brain injury lawyer

Brain injuries can be devastating for both the person injured and his or her family. Therapy, medical treatments and supplies can be expensive, and it is possible that a person may never fully recover from a brain injury. A legal claim may help you secure financial assistance from the party responsible for the injury. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, contact Newman Bronson & Wallis in St. Louis, Missouri, today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.