When a patient is admitted to the hospital after a stroke, emergency room staff will focus on reversing the effects. But if a patient arrives with a traumatic brain injury after a devastating car accident on I-435, the staff may focus on stopping the TBI from becoming fatal—even before treating the injury itself.
When the victim arrives at the hospital, the trauma team has two goals: to stabilize the patient, and to prevent any further damage (secondary injuries).
What Is a Primary Brain Injury?
A primary injury is the medical term for any trauma that occurs during an accident. In a car accident, these injuries are usually caused by an impact with another vehicle, as the victim’s head makes contact with the steering wheel, window, or dashboard. Primary injuries may include:
- Skull fractures – These injuries occur when the skull has been broken. If the broken pieces of bone dent inward, it is called a depressed skull fracture—which places pressure on the brain tissue and often requires surgical removal.
- Localized trauma – A localized brain injury means that only one area of the brain has been affected. Common injuries are bruising of the brain tissue or bleeding between the layers of the brain.
- Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) – This life-threatening injury affects all areas of the brain. Often caused by twisting or shaking of the head, DAI results from an over-stretching injury of the neurons and axons in the brain. This prevents the neurons from communicating with each other and sending messages to the rest of the body—including those that control muscles, swallowing, and even breathing.
What Is a Secondary Brain Injury?
Secondary injuries are complications that arise after the initial head injury. They can take place anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the initial accident occurs. The most common secondary injuries are intracranial bleeding or brain swelling, which can cause lack of oxygen to the brain. If not treated quickly, secondary injuries can lead to loss of consciousness, increased pressure under the skull, coma, or even sudden death. If a secondary complication is not caught in time, there may be no way to stop the brain injury from becoming fatal.
If someone in your family is recovering from a serious head injury in Kansas City, you can help by getting answers to his most pressing questions. Click the link on this page to read through our FREE e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.