According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traumatic brain injury or TBI is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the U.S. In 2019, there were approximately 61,000 deaths from TBI. TBIs result from sudden trauma damaging the brain and disrupting its normal functions. Depending on the TBI’s severity, it could have very significant lifelong cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and psychological effects.
Medical professionals classify TBIs into primary and secondary injuries. Primary brain injuries occur due to mechanical forces and develop instantly. Secondary brain injuries, on the other hand, do not happen mechanically and may develop later on after sustaining primary injuries. Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries are primary brain injuries.
Understanding Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries
Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries result from an unrestricted and sudden head movement that causes compressive, tensile, and shear strains. Among the most common situations that can result in this type of primary TBI is a high-speed auto accident, where whiplash is very common. Whiplash occurs when the head moves forward and backward rapidly.
With acceleration and deceleration brain injuries, these are the three most common types of damage:
- Diffuse axonal injury (dai)
- Focal contusions
- Intracranial hematomas, or bleeding around or in the brain
Diffuse Axonal Injury
This refers to widespread white matter damage in the brain. Your brain’s white matter consists of axon bundles, which, similar to computer wires, are responsible for connecting the different brain areas. DAI results from shearing forces that tear, twist, or stretch the axon bundles.
The problem is that DAIs are usually microscopic, which means that standard neuroimaging techniques cannot easily detect them. Severe DAIs, on the other hand, can be detected using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. DAIs could injure various brain areas and often occur with mild TBIs, but could likewise occur with severe TBIs.
These are swelling or bruising in tiny, specific brain areas. Focal contusions are also typically called coup injuries, in which bruising occurs directly under the trauma site, and contrecoup injuries, in which bruising occurs on the particular area of the brain that’s opposite the impact site. But coup-contrecoup injuries can also occur when the brain shakes back and forth, leading to bruising on both sides of your brain.
Bleeding or hematomas around or in the brain is another common damage type that could occur with acceleration and deceleration TBIs.
It’s the most common cause of clinical deterioration and death after TBI and comes as:
- Epidural hematoma: This usually results from a temporal bone fracture and middle meningeal artery rupture. With an epidural hematoma, blood clots pool between the dura and the bone. Since the bleeding source is arterial, epidural hematomas could develop rapidly and place undue pressure on brain tissue.
- Subdural hematoma: This kind of hematoma often results from the subdural space’s bridging veins getting ruptured. Left untreated, it could grow quickly and serve as a mass lesion. Subdural hematomas can lead to high mortality and morbidity rates.
- Subarachnoid hematoma: This results from blood vessel damage in the posterior cranial fossa.
There’s also the possibility of intracerebral hematomas with TBIs. Any kind of bleeding within or surrounding the brain is dangerous and potentially fatal.
What You Should Know About Secondary Injuries and Other TBI Complications
As with all kinds of traumatic brain injuries, which include accelerating and decelerating brain injuries, secondary injuries are common and occur because of the effects of the primary injuries. Essentially, a secondary injury results from processes that the primary injury initiates and evolves over time.
Secondary injuries can include:
- Cerebral edema
- Raised intracranial pressure, which could lead to herniation
- Brain abscess
- Biochemical changes
Furthermore, besides the immediate dangers of TBIs, they can also cause long-term complications and consequences, which can include:
- Nerve damage
- Cognitive issues – Problems with focus, processing information, reasoning, nonverbal and verbal communication, multitasking, judging situations, remembering things, organizing ideas and thoughts, and problem-solving, etc.
- Issues with senses – These can lead to tinnitus, clumsiness because of poor eye-hand coordination, difficulty recognizing objects, sensing bad smells, or blind spots and double vision
- Changes in personality – These changes typically result in impaired impulse control, leading to inappropriate behavior and, in turn, causing anxiety and stress for family members, caregivers, and friends
- Long-term neurological issues – These can include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression, among others
- Coma – People with TBI who become comatose and remain in a coma for a long period might wake up completely fine. Unfortunately, it’s more common for people to wake from a coma with long-term disabilities and issues. Some even stay in a coma forever.
Seeking Help for a Traumatic Brain Injury
Moderate and severe TBIs could result in lifelong cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional disabilities that will damage the injured person’s quality of life. The CDC also found that despite hospitalization and rehab services, approximately 50 percent of TBI patients would experience further decline or die within five years of sustaining a TBI.
Fortunately, it is possible to reduce or prevent some of the adverse effects of TBI. Managing these lifelong problems, also called chronic disease management, is immensely vital to help improve the lives of people with TBI. However, the estimated lifetime costs of managing a TBI can range from $85,000 up to $3 million in recent years. And for many people, the cost is a massive barrier to proper TBI management.
Because of this, TBI cases require proper and prompt medical treatment as well as legal support. If you or a loved one is suffering from a TBI that resulted from another individual’s negligence in an accident or at work, consult with a brain injury lawyer to learn about your legal options.
An experienced brain injury lawyer can help determine how and where you can recover compensation to afford all the medical treatments you will need for your brain injury, whether from your own health insurance, the at-fault party’s insurance coverage, and/or your worker’s compensation insurance.