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Types of Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are categorized by type and severity. Brain injury types fall into two main categories – traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are caused by outside forces, such as a blow to the head. Brain injuries caused by head injuries are traumatic brain injuries. Acquired brain injuries develop from conditions inside the body such as oxygen deprivation, or a tumor. They are not caused by head injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injury

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Traumatic brain injuries are the result of outside forces such as a blow to the head or whiplash. Damage to different areas of the brain and different types of damage, such as tearing of nerves or bleeding, determine the type of traumatic brain injury.

  • Concussion
    Concussions are perhaps the most common type of brain injury. They are caused by an impact or sudden momentum or movement change. A concussion can cause blood vessels to stretch and can damage cranial nerves. A concussion can be caused by a direct blow to the head, gunshot, violent shaking of the head or whiplash. A concussion can cause a brief loss of consciousness (less than 20 minutes). Often a concussion causes no loss of consciousness at all and, therefore, goes undetected. Concussions can take months or years to heal.
  • Contusion
    A contusion is a bruise. A brain contusion means bleeding on the brain. These are normally caused by a blow to the head. Large contusions sometimes have to be surgically removed. When there are contusions both at the site of impact and on the opposite side of the brain it is called a coup-contrcoup injury. This happens when the force of the blow is great enough to not only bruise the brain at the site of impact, but to jar the brain so that it hits the other side of the skull hard enough to bruise on that side as well.
  • Penetration injury
    A blow to the head from a sharp object can cause a penetration injury. This involves something entering the brain, meaning the object that struck the head or bone, skin or hair. Penetration injuries can include events where an object enters the head and ricochets around inside the skull, causing a wide area of damage, or the object can go straight through and come out the other side. A gunshot wound would be a typical example of a penetration injury.
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury
    A diffuse axonal injury is caused by rapid movement such as shaking or a strong rotation of the head. In this type of injury the skull moves faster than the brain which causes the brain to tear. Nerve tissues are torn and brain chemicals are sometimes released.
  • Second Impact Syndrome
    Second impact syndrome, or recurrent traumatic brain injury, occurs when a person has a brain injury that has not yet healed, and sustains another brain injury. This is very dangerous because it is more likely to cause severe damage or death than an injury to a healthy brain. Recovering brain injury victims are at a high risk for a second brain injury because of the impairments that they suffer from the original injury. This can include problems with balance and walking, vision problems, seizures or erratic behavior.
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome
    Shaking a baby or young child can cause widespread and irreversible damage to the brain. The blood vessels between the brain and the skull tear and bleed and the brain swells at the same time. This causes squeezing of the brain tissue between the accumulating blood and the swelling brain, and damages brain cells.

Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired brain injuries are usually caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain - either too little oxygen or no oxygen at all.

  • Hypoxic brain injury
    Hypoxic brain injuries occur when the brain receives too little oxygen. The most common form of hypoxic brain injury is hypoxic ischemic brain injury, or stagnant hypoxia. This is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain.
  • Anoxic brain injury
    Anoxic brain injuries occur when the brain receives no oxygen at all. There are three types of anoxic brain injury. Anemic anoxia occurs when the blood does not carry enough oxygen. Toxic anoxia occurs when the oxygen in the blood is blocked from being used, normally by toxins. When no oxygen is carried to the brain anoxic anoxia occurs.

Brain Injury Severity

Brain injuries are also categorized by severity. Severity is measured on the Glascow Coma Scale. This can be misleading because the severity refers to initial neurological injury rather than over-all long-term effects.

  • Mild brain injury
    A person with a mild brain injury is dazed or confused. If they lose consciousness at all it is brief, lasting no more than a few minutes.
  • Moderate brain injury
    A moderate brain injury causes loss of consciousness that lasts from several minutes to several hours. Confusion lasts weeks or months, and impairments last for months or are permanent.
  • Severe brain injury
    Severe brain injuries cause loss of consciousness for days, weeks, or months. This includes can include a coma, vegetative state, or locked-in syndrome.

Any brain injury, regardless of cause or severity can be debilitating and create tremendous suffering and hardship for victims and their families. Be sure to enlist the aid of an experienced personal injury lawyer specializing in brain damage, such as Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter in Orlando, Florida or Pomerantz, Perlberger and Lewis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


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