Car Accidents: The Dangers of Invisible Brain Injury

Car Accidents: The Dangers of Invisible Brain Injury

A few years ago, CNN reported on a scary trend occurring in emergency rooms throughout the country. There were millions of people entering medical facilities in very serious, critical condition, or in a much worse state. The problem that so many hospitals were pointing to was aptly nicknamed the ‘talk and die’ syndrome and it was all too common after serious car accidents. It is something that you should be aware of before you leave your Saint Petersburg home each day, because a person can never predict when an accident might occur. More importantly, a person cannot say – without proper medical training – what is happening within the body after suffering a sudden impact.

In the CNN article, it was reported that “a blow to the head that at first seems minor and does not result in immediate pain or other symptoms can in fact turn out to be a life-threatening brain injury.”

mri-head-scan-370098-mIn other words, a person can be involved in a St. Petersburg car accident, climb from the vehicle unassisted, and carry on a full, meaningful conversation after suffering a serious blow to the brain. The symptoms can hide from the naked eye.

    “A patient can appear so deceivingly normal at first,” said Graffagnino, director of Duke University Medical Center’s Neurosciences Critical Care Unit. “But they actually have a brain bleed and as the pressure builds up, they’ll experience classic symptoms of a traumatic brain injury.”

So how does this happen? How can a person appear perfectly fine and actually be so massively injured? The blow to the head can cause an artery to burst within the head. At first, the bleeding is minimal, the impact on the brain would not be noticed. The internal bleeding, known as hemorrhaging, causes two major issues, however, as time goes on. First, the bleeding irritates the surrounding tissue, which results in swelling (referred to as cerebral edema). Secondly, it can kill brain cells.

The term ‘talk and die’ is an upsettingly accurate description of what occurs in many instances. A person reporting no symptoms can deny medical care after an accident and drive away as if nothing happened, but doctors know that such a patient can decline very rapidly. Symptoms may appear five minutes later or, when it is a subdural bleed (between the brain and the protective layer around the brain), there may be no notable changes until several days later.

Symptoms may include sudden, severe headache, seizures, weakness in the limbs, nausea or vomiting, changes in vision, difficulty swallowing, loss of fine motor skills, reduced coordination or balance, and loss of consciousness. Unfortunately, if the problem is not corrected quickly enough, fatality is likely. For this reason, it is essential that medical care is received as quickly as possible – within a few hours of the accident. This is generally the only hope for preventing permanent damage and death. The severity of this problem will generally result in a need for craniotomy (a surgery involving the opening of the skull) to repair the broken vessels and control the resulting swelling. Days, months, or even years of medical care, including physical and cognitive therapies, may be required to get the victim back to his or her original state. In many cases, there is permanent damage done.

From this, one should take away three important messages:

  • Drive safely to avoid accidents whenever possible;
  • Seek medical care after an accident, even if you don’t notice major symptoms; and
  • Speak to a personal injury attorney about your rights after an accident. It may be possible to recover the costs of medical care.