The term brain injury can refer to many types of injuries relating to the brain, skull, and scalp. Possible complications and required treatments will greatly depend on how the injury is acquired, the location of the injury, and the severity of the brain damage. The following information covers the different types of brain injuries, as well as the different levels of severity of brain injuries. This information is crucial to understanding a personal injury case involving a brain injury, since these terms will be used extensively by both doctors and insurance adjusters when handling your case.
Types of TBIs
There are four main types of TBIs. They are concussion, contusion, penetrating injury, and anoxic brain injury.
A concussion is a minor brain injury that is caused by shaking, an impact to the head, or a sudden change in movement, like whiplash. Oftentimes, concussions cannot be seen through an imaging test, but they should still be considered serious and should be treated as so. Concussions can cause headaches, problems with concentration, memory loss, and disorientation. Concussions are especially dangerous if more than one is sustained over time, or if a second one occurs before the first one heals. See Second Impact Syndrome below.
A brain contusion is a bruise of the brain tissue, just like one might have a bruise on their skin. And like any other bruise, they are caused by the breaking and leaking of small blood vessels. On the skin level, this leaking blood under the skin is what causes the blue coloring; on the brain, the leaking causes a plethora of issues that mostly relate to a building of pressure.
Brain contusions can be caused by any impact to the head. For example, a contusion may occur in a car accident when the head hits the steering wheel, a slip and fall when the head hits the ground, or in a sports-related accident in which the brain takes a significant impact.
During the impact that causes a brain contusion, it’s possible for the brain to be damaged directly under the site of impact, on the opposite side from the point of impact as the brain is slammed into the opposing side of the skull, or both. These differences in the site of injury are classified under coup and contrecoup injuries.
Contusions, like concussions, can range dramatically from minor to extremely severe. Severe contusions may cause a loss of consciousness, confusion, tiredness, emotional distress, or agitation. More severe contusions may cause the brain to swell, could prevent proper oxygenation, and other serious consequences.
3. Penetrating injury
Penetrating brain injuries occur when some type of object pierces through the skull. This may cause the object, or hair, skin, or fragments of the skull, to make contact with the brain. This contact with and force on the brain can cause serious injury to a concentrated, or large, part of the brain. Penetrating brain injuries may be caused by any external force or object that is strong enough to break through the skull, such as:
- Slip and fall causing the skull to crack
- Motor vehicle accident in which something penetrates or breaks the skull
- Gunshot wound to the head, which is the leading cause of death by TBI
- Sports-related injury due to excessive force
4. Anoxic brain injury
Anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen to operate properly. After just four to five minutes without a proper amount of oxygen, brain cells will begin to die and brain injury will occur. Since oxygen is carried to the brain by blood, anoxic brain damage most often occurs because of a blockage of this blood flow.
Blockage can occur as a result of a blood clot, stroke, heart attack, or serious trauma, among others. It may also be possible the blood flow to the brain, in quantity, is normal, but that the blood itself is not carrying enough oxygen. This can occur as a result of poisoning, drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning, choking, suffocation, or anything that prevents the lungs from taking in a normal amount of oxygen molecules.
Additional Types of TBIs
Diffuse Axonal Injury
A diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is similar to a concussion in that it results from the brain moving, but it is often much more serious. With a DAI, the head so violently moves that the brain stem cannot keep up with the rate of movement, causing tears in the connections of the brain to the spinal cord. These tears can be microscopic, producing varying degrees of brain damage, or they can be quite large. Tears that are sufficiently may cause extremely serious, life long effects, or they can even be fatal.
The severity of symptoms with this type of injury is largely dependent on the brain areas affected, the severity of the tears, and whether any other injuries—such as a contusion or concussion—were also sustained.
Hypoxic Brain Injuries
One type of traumatic brain injury is hypoxic brain injury which occurs when the brain receives some but not receive enough oxygen and suffers damage as a result. This is usually achieved by incomplete reduction of oxygen to the lungs or blood to the brain via some form of inefficient suffocation like near-drowning, near-hanging, cardiac arrest, carbon monoxide, or exposure to poisonous gasses. One version of hypoxic brain injury is hypoxic ischemic brain injury, also called stagnant hypoxia or ischemic insult.
Second Impact Syndrome
Just as a scab that is reopened takes longer to heal, a second brain injury when you’ve already sustained a first can cause even more catastrophic damage. Sometimes called a recurrent traumatic brain injury, the effect of second impact syndrome depends on the location of the injury, the severity of the first injury, and the degree of trauma sustained.
A second impact is more likely to cause severe brain damage than a first, even if the victim does not lose consciousness. If you suffer a blow to the head in the months following a brain injury, seek prompt medical care, even if you feel fine. Oftentimes, second concussions are a silent killer, since both impacts can appear to be minor at the time.
Levels of Various Types of TBIs
There are three basic levels of TBI injury: mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild injury – A mild TBI is characterized by loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes, if at all. Loss of consciousness doesn’t need to occur and a victim may only appear to be confused or disoriented. With mild TBIs, medical tests may show that the brain was not injured, although this can be untrue. This is why doctors look closely at the victim’s mental functioning in diagnosing mild TBIs and concussions.
Moderate injury – A moderate TBI is characterized by loss of consciousness that may last up to a few hours and confusion that can last up to weeks. With a moderate TBI, complications can last for months and could be permanent. These complications can be physical, cognitive, or behavioral. Many treatment programs will be needed to address these complications.
Severe brain injury – The most severe TBIs come from crushing blows or penetration to the skull and brain. This level of injury is life-threatening and the victim is not likely to return to the life that they once had. While closed head injuries can result in severe brain injury, typically severe head trauma is from an open head injury where the skull has been seriously damaged.
Recovering from a TBI
Recovering from any type of TBI may seem arduous, but it is possible to recover from a traumatic brain injury and still move on with your life. There will definitely be some challenges and set backs, but plenty of people have faced the road to TBI recovery and successfully traveled it. For more complete information on recovering from a TBI, read “Recovering From a Traumatic Brain Injury“.
Contact a New Port Richey Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney to Determine Your Options
No two types of TBIs are the same and many require specialized care and rehabilitation services. People who believe they may have sustained a minor TBI like a concussion should be aware that often new symptoms develop in the weeks following the accident. These new symptoms should not be disregarded and should be addressed by a healthcare professional. Contacting a skilled New Port Richey brain injury lawyer can help you get the treatment you need while also helping you to litigate your TBI case..