Austin Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disruption of the brain’s normal functions. It can result in something as mild as a headache or as severe as permanent memory loss, coma, or even death. TBI happens when a person suffers a jolt or blow to the head, typically during a fall or high-impact accident. According to the American Medical Association, the injury sustained in such events is caused by damage to the brain tissue itself, or by the rupture and bleeding of blood vessels onto the brain.
- Concussion is temporary loss of brain function. Both open and closed head injuries can cause a concussion. The blood vessels in the brain may stretch and damage cranial nerves. It may include a skull fracture and/or brain swelling.
- Contusion is a bruising of the brain. Large contusions may require surgery. A so-called coup-contrecoup contusion is when the injury is located both at the site of impact and on the opposite side of the brain.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury happens when the skull rotates so rapidly that the unmoving brain lags, such as in the rotational force of a car accident. The damage is done when certain structures that secure the brain inside the skull tear, which disrupts the chemical connectivity of the brain functions. The location of the tear largely determines the type of functional impairments.
- Hematoma is a blood clot in the brain. Specifically, a subdural hematoma is a blood accumulation in the layers of tissue surrounding the brain. Severe cases require surgical drainage. In some cases, a subdural hematoma may be associated with additional intracranial injuries like subarachnoid hemorrhage, unilateral intraparenchymal contusion, intraventricular hemorrhage, pneumocephalus, multiple intraparenchymal contusions, and epidural hematoma.[i]
- Hypothermia (dangerously lowered body temperature that as of 2003 is classified as a TBI).
In the event of a serious head injury, what most people experience is commonly called a “concussion,” associated with a temporary change in mental state. The person may lose consciousness, become confused and/or nauseated, feel sleepy or irritable.
Even persons who do not immediately notice symptoms at the time of the incident require immediate attention and observation by a medical professional. A health care professional can determine the most appropriate course of treatment, for example whether a person who has suffered a TBI needs to be seen by a neurologist or neuropsychologist for specialized care. Victims of a TBI who are seen by a medical professional shortly after the incident have a higher chance of improved recovery. The most common diagnostic techniques in the acute phase, when a patient is initially admitted into an emergency department, include Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
In some cases, a primary injury including direct damage to the brain tissue can lead to a secondary injury days or hours later. The secondary injury may be caused by complications such as inflammation and cerebral edema, or brain swelling.
Traumatic Brain Injury is a leading cause of disability and illness in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control report that 1.7 million people annually sustain a TBI. About 80% of those are treated in an emergency department. Close to 90% of those patients were released from the emergency department. Recovering from a TBI, however, is more like a process than an isolated cure. Somewhere between 3.2 and 5.3 million persons in the United States are living with a disability related to a TBI. The cost of TBIs annually in the U.S. is estimated at sixty billion dollars.
Motor vehicle collisions account for about 17% annually of the Traumatic Brain Injuries sustained by external cause. They are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths, with the highest incident rates for people between the ages of 20 and 24. In the adolescent population (10-19 years old), motor vehicle occupant accidents are the leading cause of TBI. In this young population, immediate assessment and treatment are especially important as the victim’s prospects for recovery may be determined by early interventions.
Researchers studying the relationship between traumatic brain injury and various motor vehicle collision factors found that the severity of an injury varies considerably depending on, for example, where the vehicle is struck and whether the vehicle occupants are wearing constraints (seatbelts). So-called lateral collisions, wherein a vehicle is struck on the side rather than from the front or rear, are particularly dangerous for the vehicle occupants. In side-impacted collisions, injuries that indicate severe brain injury (skulls fractures and intracranial hemorrhage) are significantly more common. The study reports that the higher rate of injury may be associated in part with the occupants’ proximity to the point of contact, typically the side window. The same study found that seatbelts not only reduce the probability of sustaining an injury, but also reduce the severity of a possible injury sustained.
 Jillian E. Urban et al., “Motor Vehicle Crash-Related Subdural Hematoma from Real-World Head Impact Data,” Journal of Neurotrauma 29 (2012): 2776.
 See Anthony O. Asemota, Benjamin P. George, Steven M. Bowman, Adil H. Haider, and Eric B. Schneider, “Causes and Trends in Traumatic Brain Injury for United States Adolescents,” Journal of Neurotrauma 30 (2013): 67-75.
 Frank G. Hillary, et al., “Motor Vehicle Collision Factors Influence Severity and Type of TBI,” Brain Injury 16:8 (2002): 729-741.