Brain injuries can be divided into several categories: inherited, birth trauma, and acquired. Acquired brain injuries is a broad category covering cumulative and age-related brain injury, infectious agents or mechanical forces that cause brain injury. Other types of acquired brain injury can be due to surgical error, such as a wrong move during brain surgery, or a transfer of prion proteins on unsanitized, previously used medical instruments (Creutzfeld-Jakob disease transference if not inherited).
Some diseases of the brain that a person can be born with, whether inherited or not, are: Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, toxoplasmosis (parasitic infection that crosses placental barrier), Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease (CJD), FFI, GSS, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. The cumulative and age-related brain diminishing diseases are being studied intensely to determine whether genetic links are causative factors or not.
Infectious agents can also harm the brain. These agents can be bacterial, fungal, viral, or prions. Symptoms of such infections are typically fever and flu-like symptoms. Abscess or infection near the brain (such as in the sinuses or middle ear) can spread into the brain and destroy neural tissue. Systemic infections such as toxemia or septicemia can also affect the brain tissues. Some brain harming agents can be introduced through infected food, such as trichinosis and other pork product related infections. Beef from cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) can introduce prions that harm the brain. Meningitis and encephalitis are bacterial forms of brain infections, while polio, measles, mumps, HIV/AIDS, and rabies can have brain complications in later stages and are caused by viruses. Tumors, blood clots, weak vessels within the brain, toxin exposure, drug and/or alcohol abuse can all cause brain injury as well and also fall under the “acquired” heading.
Much injury can happen to the brain simply by oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia and anoxia result in brain cell death within minutes if oxygen levels are not restored. Many birthing injuries that result in brain damage result from oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain by compression of neck blood vessels with instruments (such as forceps) during delivery. Near-drownings and strokes also cause brain cell death due to a lack of oxygen.
What comes to most peoples’ minds when they think of brain injury is in the form of trauma to the head or brain. Concussions are damage done to the brain through a physical force striking the skull in some manner. The injury can happen on the side of the brain that was struck and result in bruising and/or bleeding of the brain. Or the injury can happen on the opposite of the brain than was hit, because the brain bounced off of the other side of the skull with force due to a physical strike. Concussions and other such trauma can be the result of falls, car or bike wrecks, violence, explosions, and sports injuries. Penetrating trauma can also harm the brain, in the form of bullets, or bone fragments from skull damage. Ages most at risk for physical or mechanical trauma to the brain are kids from newborns up to the age of four years. This is because of child abuse (shaking a baby), and the unsteadiness of children as they gain coordination. Teens in the 15 to 19 range are another at-risk group due to participation in sports. The elderly of age 65+ are also at risk as falls become more common.
Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury:
- Anxious or depressed feelings
- Balance problems
- Focus/concentrating difficulties
- Light/sound sensitivity
- Loss of consciousness (measured in seconds or minutes)
- Memory difficulties
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sleeping problems
- Sleeping too much
- Senses awry
Symptoms of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury:
- Altered mental status (profound)
- Clear or yellowish fluid (cerebral-spinal fluid) drainage from nose, ear, or head wound
- Difficult to arouse from sleep
- Dilation of one or both pupils
- Headache that is persistent or worsening
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of consciousness (measured in minutes to hours)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Numbness or weakness in extremities
- Seizure or convulsions
- Slurred speech
If you or a loved one suffered a brain injury due to a surgical error or the worsening of a condition that was misdiagnosed, you may be eligible for damages. Call the experts at the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts to see if you have a brain injury medical malpractice case. There is no cost for representation unless there is a settlement or cash recovery made on your behalf.