Following a car accident it is possible to sustain head trauma. Head trauma is when the brain sustains an injury. You needn’t be travelling at excessive speeds to incur a head trauma. Neither is direct impact required to sustain a head trauma, for example it is possible to suffer from head trauma as a result of whiplash (when your head moves violently forwards and then backwards).
There are two significant points in time in which head trauma can occur.
1) The Primary Injury – This is when the accident occurs, for example if you are in a car accident this will refer to injuries obtained at the time of impact. These injuries include:
a. Bleeding on the surface of the brain - the skull surrounds the brain, to protect it. The skull acts as a barrier, however in doing so there is no extra room for any other blood. Normally there is a fine balance within the brain. However, when a head trauma occurs the blood vessels in the brain can tear. If there is more blood than normal surrounding the brain the blood can cause an increase in pressure, which pushes against the soft brain tissue. This can cause damage and even death to parts of the brain.
b. Bruising of the brain - Bruising of the brain can occur in numerous places, not just at the site of impact, but where ever the brain has collided with the skull.
c. Shaking of the brain – The process in which the brain is thrown backwards and forwards within the skull can cause the delicate blood vessels in the brain to tear. This results in blood formulating around the brain.
d. Penetrating the brain – this is when foreign objects penetrate the brain.
2) The Secondary Injury – This makes reference to any injury, which occurs following the primary injury.
a. The Bleeding can continue
b. Haematoma – A haematoma is when the brain continues to bleed due to blood vessels tearing. This results in blood collecting in the skull. The brain is surrounded by the Dura, a protective barrier between the brain and the skull. Clots can form between the Dura and the skull; this is called an Epidural Hematoma. Similarly clots may form between the brain and the Dura is a Subdural Haematoma.
c. Odema – Odema is when the brain swells. This is a normal process within the body. It helps the body to protect the injured site. However, due to the nature of the brain and it being surrounded by the skull, any swelling can put pressure of the brain and can cause further injury.
d. The conditions in the body change – An Edema can result in an increase in pressure within the skull, which prevents the oxygenated, and glucose rich blood from entering the brain. This starves the brain of vital oxygen and nutrients and can cause damage to the brain.
There are numerous symptoms to look out for as a result of head trauma. These symptoms may not be apparent immediately following a car accident:
1) Loss of Consciousness
2) Post Traumatic Amnesia – A loss of memory of incidents prior to or following the car accident.
3) Concussion – Symptoms include
a. Reduced concentration
h. Weepy/ emotional
4) Encephalopathy – This is when the brain is not functioning correctly. Symptoms include:
b. Memory loss
Should you experience any of these symptoms following a car accident or head trauma you should contact your accident and emergency centre immediately.