San Francisco Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
Despite these advances, brain injuries are still common and have the potential to impact not only the people who suffered the injury but their family members as well. Brain injuries have the potential to cause not only death but also chronic complications that could impact the individual for the rest of his or her life. Furthermore, their families may have to provide care for that individual, affecting employment opportunities and the family's overall quality of life.
In this article:
- A Few Statistics on Traumatic Brain Injuries
- What Defines a Traumatic Brain Injury?
- Brain Injuries Might Not Be Noticed Immediately
- Common Mechanisms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
- What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
- How is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?
- Treatment of a Traumatic Brain Injury: Management of Intracranial Pressure
- Serious Complications of a Traumatic Brain Injury
- Contacting a San Francisco Catastrophic Brain Injury Lawyer
Even though traumatic brain injuries are serious, they are not as rare as many people think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released some crucial statistics on traumatic brain injuries. Based on the information:
- In 2013, nearly three million people visited a healthcare professional due to concerns for a traumatic brain injury.
- A traumatic brain injury was listed as a contributing cause of death in close to 50,000 individuals.
- Close to 300,000 people were hospitalized due to concerns for a traumatic brain injury.
- More than two-and-a-half million people visited the emergency department due to concerns for a traumatic brain injury.
- Over the past decade, the rate at which people are visiting the emergency department for a traumatic brain injury has gone up by 50 percent.
- More than 300,000 kids received treatment in the emergency department due to concerns for a traumatic brain injury during this same period.
- Since 2001, the rate at which concussions have been diagnosed in children playing competitive sports has more than doubled.
These statistics paint a grim picture and indicate that everyone should be wary of a traumatic brain injury and its impacts.What Defines a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The medical community defines a traumatic brain injury as any impact that leads to a disruption of the typical function of the brain. Importantly, not all blows to the head will lead to a traumatic brain injury; however, it is better to err on the safe side. These neurological injuries could be caused by:
- A simple bump on the head
- A direct, blunt impact to the skull
- A closed head injury
- Any penetrating injury that goes beneath the scalp
The world of traumatic brain injuries is wide and varied. Unfortunately, everyone is at risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury, including babies, children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. Sometimes, these brain injuries are not picked up immediately, which can lead to a devastating delay in medical care.<Brain Injuries Might Not Be Noticed Immediately
Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries do have the potential to be missed. As a brief example, the NFL has spent a lot of time addressing the issue of concussions. If people sustain repeated concussions, they could develop a chronic medical condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which can lead to some significant motor, sensory, and mental health issues. Furthermore, if people suffer a second concussion while still recovering from the first one, they might develop a devastating medical complication known as Second Impact Syndrome, which could lead to death. Because of this, traumatic brain injuries cannot be overlooked and must be diagnosed the first time properly. The consequences of missing a traumatic brain injury could include death and, unfortunately, these problems also impact children. Because of this, anyone who has sustained forcible contact to the head or neck area should seek medical attention immediately. Treatment should start as quickly as possible.Common Mechanisms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
With the goal of preventing traumatic brain injuries in mind, it is vital to understand just how these serious injuries might develop. There are countless ways that someone could suffer forcible contact to the head or neck area:
- Shaken Baby Syndrome - Starting with the youngest of the young, even infants can suffer a traumatic brain injury. Babies do not have the same muscle strength in their neck as children and adults do. Therefore, if a baby is shaken back and forth, they cannot hold their head still. A shaken baby suffers neurological damage as their brain rattles around inside of their skull, leading to chronic complications or even death.
- Bicycle Accidents - People of all ages, but particularly children, can suffer traumatic brain injuries while riding a bike. Sometimes, children lose control of their bikes and fall. In other cases, they could be struck by a car. In any case, someone who falls off of their bike could strike their head on the ground. This impact between the skull and the pavement could lead to a traumatic brain injury. For this reason, everyone should wear a helmet when they ride a bike.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents - For adolescents and adults, one of the most common ways that a traumatic brain injury is sustained is through a motor vehicle accident. While modern cars have improved safety features, including airbags and shatter-resistant windshields, people can still suffer a traumatic brain injury. While their body is restrained by a seatbelt, their head is not. People could strike their head on the dashboard, steering wheel, or window, leading to a brain injury.
- Slip and Fall Injuries - Across all ages, but particularly for the elderly, slip and fall injuries are a serious risk. It could involve a slippery floor, an icy sidewalk, or even a staircase, but when people fall, they can hit their head. No matter how benign the fall may appear, a traumatic brain injury can result. Slip and fall injuries are one of the most common ways that people sustain a traumatic brain injury.Whenever someone is involved in an accident that includes a blow to the head, it is vital to be vigilant for signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. This can present differently depending on the type of brain injury.
- A severe headache that could vary in location and intensity
- Visible deformities across the skull
- Obvious bruises on the scalp or neck area
- Leading of blood or cerebrospinal fluid from the nose or ears
- Black eyes
- An abrupt or gradual loss of consciousness
- Confusion or disorientation to self, place, time, or purpose
- The aggravation that is made worse with bright lights or loud noises
- Numbness along certain parts of the body
- The inability to see or hear
- Memory loss
- Problems moving one or more of the extremities
Not everyone who has suffered these types of brain injuries will present with all of these signs and symptoms. Furthermore, some individuals suffering from a head injury might not present with any of these signs at all. If someone presents with signs and symptoms of a head injury, it is essential to obtain a diagnosis so that treatment can start.How is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?
Like any serious medical injury, the diagnosis starts with a thorough history and physical exam. The history consists of questions to look for signs and symptoms along with a mechanism of injury that is consistent with a TBI. After this, the doctor conducts a physical examination that is focused on looking for signs of neurological damage. This includes:
- The inability to follow three-step commands
- Signs of altered consciousness
- Motor weakness
- Numbness and tingling
If the doctor is still concerned that a traumatic brain injury might have occurred, the next step is imaging. There are many different ways that doctors can take a picture of someone's head. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. These imaging modalities include:
- X-ray - An x-ray is the oldest way to image someone's body. It is fast, cheap, and differentiates parts of the body through density. The amount of radiation in an x-ray is extremely low. Unfortunately, it only produces a two-dimensional image and is not very helpful if someone has suffered a traumatic brain injury. It can show a skull fracture, which often occurs when someone suffers a severe blow to the head.
- CT Scan - A Computed Tomography (CT) scan is basically a three-dimensional x-ray. It takes several seconds to produce a 3D image of the head. It is fast and relatively inexpensive; however, it does deliver a large dose of radiation. Therefore, a CT scan is not ordered lightly. A CT scan also differentiates images based on density. Consequently, it is great at showing bleeds in the brain. It can also show skull fractures. Unfortunately, its resolution is not great for looking at the soft tissue of the brain.
- MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the most detailed imaging modality available. Individuals are placed in a powerful magnetic field. This magnet spins the nuclei inside of each atom in the body differently depending on its charge. Then, the machine senses the way that the atoms are spinning. It uses the difference in spins to produce an image, which is remarkable in its level of clarity. This is ideal for looking at the severity of the damage inside the brain; however, it also takes a long time to produce its image. Therefore, this image is rarely used on an emergency basis. Once a TBI has been diagnosed, the next step is to start the treatment process.
The initial treatment of any traumatic brain injury focuses on making sure that the patient is stable. The doctor will look at the individual's vital signs which include his or her:
- Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Respiratory Rate
- Oxygen Saturation
Often, individuals are dehydrated after a serious accident. The doctor may give the individual intravenous fluids, supplemental oxygen, antibiotics, or even a blood transfusion. Once the individual's vital signs have been stabilized, the focus is going to be on managing the intracranial pressure inside of the skull. To do this, it is necessary to measure the cerebral perfusion pressure.The Cerebral Perfusion Pressure
Often abbreviated as CPP, the cerebral perfusion pressure is the measurement of the blood pressure that is inside of the brain. Like water, blood flows from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. This flow is essential to the survival of brain tissue because the blood carries oxygen and nutrients. If the pressure drops too low, the blood could stop circulating. If the pressure is too high, the brain starts to swell. The cerebral pressure can be calculated as the difference between the mean arterial pressure (the average of the various pressures inside of the individual's arteries) and the intracranial pressure (which is the pressure inside of the skull). Therefore, the mathematical equation is:
- CPP = MAP - ICP
It is this difference between the ICP and the MAP that keeps the blood flowing throughout the brain. If the mean arterial pressure starts to drop, as in cases of blood loss, the flow rate of blood within the brain will start to decline. On the other hand, if the intracranial pressure starts to rise, this can lead to a drop in the CPP as well, leading to similar consequences.Management of Intracranial Pressure
Elevated pressure inside of the skull is referred to as increased intracranial pressure (ICP). This happens following a traumatic brain injury because the brain starts to swell inside a closed space (the skull). The brain swells after a serious impact because, like any other part of the body, it swells in response to injury. This swelling comes from the fluid that is being rushed to the site of the injury to starting the healing process. Unfortunately, swelling inside of the brain can also be deadly. To reduce the pressure inside of the skull, physicians will use a variety of treatment options including:
- Mannitol, a drug used to lower intracranial pressure
- Hyperventilation, which decreases the amount of CO2 in the blood, lowering the ICP)
- Steroids, which are used to reduce swelling
If the intracranial pressure rises, this could lead to a number of serious complications. Some of these could even be life-threatening.Serious Complications of a Traumatic Brain InjuryThe immediate treatment of a traumatic brain injury is going to focus on stabilizing the individual. The oxygen saturation of the blood needs to be maintained. The pressures inside the skull need to be managed. All bleeding must be stopped. Dehydration must be corrected. After this, the recovery process can begin; however, complications also start to manifest around this time. Some of these include:Herniation
This is perhaps the most devastating potential complication of any traumatic brain injury. This is what doctors are trying to avoid by keeping a close eye on the individual's intracranial and cerebral perfusion pressures. The brain is trapped inside the skull. If it swells inside of a closed space, the brain could herniate. This means that some of the brain tissue is forced through one of the holes in the skull, effectively killing it. Severe herniations could also lead to death.Mental Health Complications
Mental health complications are often overlooked but are no less severe. When parts of the brain have been damaged, the individual could suffer severe personality changes. These could manifest as:
- Reduced judgment
- Lack of inhibition
- Temper tantrums and outbursts
- Psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions
- Depression or bipolar disorder
Because of this, anyone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury should be sure to meet with a mental health counselor or psychiatrist. Mental health issues should be addressed early.<Motor and Sensory Difficulties
Possibly the most well-known complications of traumatic brain injuries involve motor and sensory changes. The brain sends motor signals to the rest of the body. It also receives sensory signals from every cell. If the brain has been damaged, it might not be able to send motor signals accurately, leading to issues moving the arms or legs. Furthermore, because the sensory function of the brain is impaired, this could manifest as chronic pain. These serious issues are often addressed by physical and occupational therapists, who are sometimes able to help an individual regain some of their lost function. Ultimately, these complications can be devastating for the entire family. These complications could last for the rest of the individual's life. Families need to know that help is available. In addition to medical providers, there are other resources available to assist families in need.Contact a San Francisco Catastrophic Brain Injury Lawyer
Those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury often focus on their medical recovery. They might not be thinking about the ancillary issues that might arise, such as the cost related to their immediate and long-term medical care. Unfortunately, this burden often falls on loved ones and can have a devastating impact on the quality of life of the entire family. This can bring financial ruin to even the most well-off families. Therefore, it is important to contact a northern California Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer. An experienced injury attorney can help a family by:
- Providing resources that help a person find an excellent neurologist, neuropsychologist or other physicians with experience in traumatic brain injuries.
- Going through all of the reports that are available on the accident, making sure that no details have been missed.
- Working with engineers and accident experts to reconstruct what has happened at the scene and ensure that liability has been assigned appropriately.
- Providing a steady presence to guide families through the decision-making process.
- Help families earn financial awards to help cover the costs related to their injuries, pain, and suffering.
- File paperwork with the courts and, if necessary, take the case to trial.
No family should feel like they have to deal with the consequences of a traumatic brain injury alone. Everyone needs help during their time of need. Because of this, reach out and speak with a Bay Area traumatic brain injury attorney. You and your family could be deserving of financial compensation.
The video below features a woman who had experienced a traumatic brain injury. She shares her story along with her message of hope and inspiration.San Francisco Brain Injury Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a traumatic brain injury lawyer in San Francisco. If you or someone you know has suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident, please reach out to me at (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
Image Attribution: Pixabay.com.
:dr cha EAS bw [cs 2923]
Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 5.20.20]