A Secondary Brain Injury is Even More Troubling

Where a primary brain injury can happen in a fraction of a second, a secondary brain injury may take hours or days to develop. Besides the damage caused at the moment of injury, brain trauma can cause secondary injuries (which are a variety of events that take place in the minutes and days following the injury). These events, include alterations in cerebral blood flow and the pressure within the skull, can contribute substantially to the damage from the initial injury and can be more troubling and harmful than initial injury.|

That’s why the primary goal in the management of all head injuries is the prevention of secondary injuries. If a loved one didn’t get the proper care to avoid a secondary brain injury due to the negligence of another, contact Seeger Weiss personal injury attorneys.

Type 1: Epidural hematoma

Is when a buildup of blood between the dura mater and the skull happens. The dura mater also covers the spine, so epidural bleeds may also occur in the spinal column. This secondary brain injury is potentially deadly because the buildup of blood may increase pressure in the intracranial and compress delicate brain tissue. Between 15 and 20% of patients with epidural hematomas die, such as these recent celebrities:

On April 17, 2003, at age 72, Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the Atkins diet, slipped on ice while walking to work, hitting his head and causing bleeding around his brain. He lost consciousness on the way to the hospital, where he spent two weeks in intensive care. The cause of death was “blunt impact injury of the head with epidural hematoma.”

On March 18, 2009, actress Natasha Richardson died as a result of an epidural hematoma, or secondary brain injury sustained two days earlier while skiing in Mont-Tremblant Québec, Canada. She did not exhibit any symptoms until about an hour after her fall when she complained of a headache. By the time she reached medical care, the hematoma had already caused significant damage.

Type 2: Subdural Hematoma

Is when blood gathers within the outermost meningeal layer and the arachnoid mater. It usually results from tears in veins that cross the subdural space. They may cause an increase in intracranial pressure (ICP), which can cause compression of and damage to delicate brain tissue. This type of secondary brain injury is usually not deadly if treated—one occurrence is the shaken baby syndrome.

Symptoms have a slower onset than those of epidural hemorrhages because the lower pressure veins bleed more slowly than arteries. So secondary injury symptoms may show up within 24 hours or can be delayed as much as two weeks. If the bleeds are large enough to put pressure on the brain, signs of increased damage to part of the brain will be present.

Type 3: Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Where bleeding in the subarachnoid space and the pia mater surrounding the brain occurs. It may occur spontaneously, usually from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm or result from a secondary brain injury.

Symptoms include a severe thunderclap headache (sudden and severe) vomiting, confusion or a lowered level of consciousness, and sometimes seizures. Prompt secondary injury treatment is needed primarily by a procedure called coiling, which is carried out by instrumentation through large blood vessels.

This form of secondary brain injury is a stroke and can lead to death or severe disability—even when recognized and treated at an early stage. Up to half of all cases are fatal and those who survive often have neurological or cognitive impairment.

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