A head injury is any trauma that leads to injury of the scalp, skull or brain, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. There are two types of traumatic head injury: open head injury and closed head injury.
An open head injury occurs when the cranium is fractured and/or the membranes that surround the brain (dura mater) are breached; in contrast, a closed head injury does not cause damage to the dura mater or skull.
It is important for patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury to seek immediate medical attention to treat the injury and prevent further damage.
Head Injury Causes
Some of the most common causes of head injury are car accidents, falls and assaults. More than half of all traumatic head injuries in people under 75 years of age are a result of motor vehicle accidents. Falls are the leading cause of head injury in people over 75.
Almost 20 percent of head injuries are caused by violent acts, and sports-related accidents account for about 3 percent. In these instances, brain damage is caused by a strong external blow to the head, or the brain violently colliding with the inside of the skull.
Head Injury Symptoms
Patients who have sustained a head injury may experience several symptoms, including loss of consciousness, concussion, memory loss, headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea and dilated pupils. Patients who suffer an open head injury may experience bleeding, swelling and bruising on the surface of the head. Signs of serious brain injury include convulsions, seizures, vomiting, loss of consciousness and paralysis. Because symptoms may reveal themselves immediately or even days or weeks after the incident, it is imperative that head injury patients seek immediate medical attention.
Head Injury Complications
Head injuries can lead to a variety of complications. Doctors carefully monitor head injury patients for increased intracranial pressure, brain swelling and hematoma, which can lead to devastating brain damage. Patients who experience these complications may need immediate surgery to drain blood pooling and relieve pressure and swelling. In addition, open head injury patients are at risk for infection and excessive blood loss.
Head Injury Treatment
A doctor's first priority when treating a head injury is to stabilize the patient's vital signs. This may include unblocking airways and maintaining proper blood flow to the brain. Once the patient is stable, doctors use X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and other medical examinations to determine the location and extent of the injury. This information is then used to create a personalized treatment plan for the patient.
In some instances, surgery is needed to lessen intracranial pressure and brain swelling, remove fractured pieces of the skull or insert synthetic implants to protect brain tissue.
For open head injury patients, physicians often prescribe antibiotics and anti-convulsion medication to prevent seizures.
Patients who have sustained a head injury or traumatic brain injury require immediate medical attention to prevent severe complications. To learn more about traumatic brain injury and how to file a traumatic brain injury lawsuit, please refer to other articles on this site.
[Last revision: July 2009]