Frequently Asked Questions - Why Are Brain Injuries Often Life-Threatening?
A brain injury is one of the most life-threatening injuries you could possibly sustain due to the fact that your brain controls every single aspect of your body and neuro, muscular, and skeletal system. If your brain is injured or damaged in any way, your body will likely not be able to function at its highest capacity. Brain damage can range from very slight to completely incapacitating. If you are diagnosed with a brain injury, it is extremely hard to recover as the brain is extremely difficult to heal itself like a broken bone or cut.
A concussion is typically the most common brain injury someone can sustain. A concussion is caused by a sudden blow to the head which causes the blood vessels in the brain to stretch. Some people lose consciousness when they receive a blow to the head which can result in a concussion. Some symptoms of a concussion can be vomiting, nausea, headaches, blurry vision, and drowsiness. If you suspect you or a loved one has suffered a concussion, you should present it to the emergency room immediately. A common myth is to not let the person suspected of having a concussion fall asleep. Sleep can actually help the brain recovery quicker; however, a person diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome may actually have a hard time falling asleep or may have their sleep disrupted due to sudden brain injury. People diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome sometimes also experience restless leg syndrome which can keep them up at night, developing into insomnia. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is always best to consult with your primary care doctor who will more than likely refer you to a neurologist. A neurologist can refer you for an MRI of the brain to see if there has been any additional damage or swelling of the brain.
Many head injuries can cause a brain contusion which is bruising to the soft tissue of the brain. This can lead to microhemorrhages or blood vessel leaks causing blood clots which cause the brain to swell creating an interruption of the motor functions. This type of injury can be life-threatening if not treated in time. Brain contusion symptoms can include memory loss, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, increased pupil size or inability to speak. MRIs or CT scans of the brain can pinpoint the exact location of the contusion and your doctor will determine a treatment plan which will likely include hospitalization for a short period of time.
A traumatic brain injury often results from a closed head injury. Closed head injuries can occur from sports injuries, automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, a blow to the head, or just an accidental fall and can range from minor to life-threatening. Closed head injuries symptoms can include, mood changes, difficulty speaking or walking, headaches, vomiting, swelling of the face, confusion, and loss of consciousness, just to name a few. These symptoms can show up immediately or can develop over the next few days. Some people can experience the symptoms for several days while others have the symptoms for a few weeks. If someone has a severe closed head injury, a medical coma may be required to treat the injury. If you are placed into a medical coma, you are in a deep state of unconsciousness which is controlled by a medical drug. A medical coma shuts down the brain function temporarily giving it time to try to heal itself naturally by reducing the blood pressure to the brain. A medical coma is induced for as short a period as possible. It is never known how your brain will recover or how your body will react once you are taken out of the medical coma. Some patients wake up with very mild symptoms while others can suffer from complete brain damage.
Another type of brain injury is a penetrating brain injury. This occurs when your skull cracks or a foreign object pierces the skull and brain. This is typically caused by blunt force trauma. Some automobile accident victims suffer penetrating brain injuries if they are ejected from the vehicle or if they hit their head on any part of the vehicle. If this happens, you should be rushed to the emergency room immediately as a penetrating brain injury is extremely life-threatening. If the injury is not treated immediately, death will likely occur either from lack of oxygen to the brain or bleeding out. If you can be treated in time, you will be placed in a medical coma and will undergo surgery to repair the injury. It is extremely difficult to recover from a penetrating brain injury due to the severe damage the brain has suffered in the injury. The brain is the most difficult part of the body to heal as it is so complex and fragile. Usually, after suffering a penetrating brain injury, you are left with mild to severe brain damage or could be left in a vegetative state. If your doctor does not think you will recover from the injury or will be left in a vegetative state, you're next of kin will be advised of the outcome and will decide if they should keep you on life support or not. If you have a living will, this will dictate how you should be treated should this situation occur. Most people do not wish to live in a vegetative state and their will dictates that life support be shut off. If you do not have a living will, your next of kin will decide for you.
If you have suffered a brain injury and survive, you could end up with mild to severe brain damage for the rest of your life which could affect your personality and behavior and motor functions. If you are caring for someone who has suffered a severe brain injury, this will be a fulltime job and will require a lot of constant care and support. It is extremely hard to care for someone with severe brain damage as they could be unable to talk or communicate, walk, feed themselves, or even go to the bathroom on their own.