Primary vs. Secondary Brain Injury

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A primary brain injury occurs when an object strikes the head, penetrates the skull, or causes another kind of traumatic brain injury. The primary brain injury happens the instant the brain is injured, whether from a vehicle accident, fall, ski accident, gunshot, or any other form of accident. But what is a secondary brain injury? Any brain damage or traumatic brain injury symptoms that present subsequently following the accident’s recovery are referred to as a “secondary brain injury.”

Brain Injuries Are Complex

A brain injury is a complex, full-spectrum medical condition. But what is a primary injury vs. a secondary brain injury? The trauma experienced immediately following the collision causes primary brain damage. As a result of the trauma brought on by the accident, secondary brain injuries may develop. A brain injury can significantly hinder your ability to fully participate in daily activities and heal after brain damage.

When Do I Need a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer?

A traumatic brain injury’s physical and psychological ramifications can be extensive and endure anywhere from a few days to the remainder of the person’s life. Brain-damaged individuals may be entitled to financial compensation. Suppose you can receive compensation for your brain injury. In that case, you could find it less stressful to deal with the additional stress brought on by excessive medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, or a decreased quality of life. The superb legal team at Tatum and Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters’ represents you in proceedings, allowing you to focus on healing.

Primary vs Secondary Brain Injury Explained

Brain injuries can be classified as either primary or secondary, depending on when they occur and their underlying causes. Primary brain injury occurs immediately following the initial trauma, and it can be caused by several factors.

Brain contusions are a common type of primary brain injury, resulting from direct blows to the head. They can cause blood clots in the meningeal layers or the cortical or subcortical structures of the brain, leading to swelling and pressure on the brain. Skull fractures, which can occur due to high-velocity injuries, are another example of primary brain injury.

Low-velocity injuries, such as those caused by falls or motor vehicle accidents, can cause lacerations in the brain tissue. These injuries may not be immediately apparent and can lead to delayed symptoms or complications.

Functional deficits without pathological injury, such as post-concussion syndrome, are also considered primary brain injuries. They can cause a range of symptoms, including headache, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive impairment.

Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is another type of primary brain injury that occurs due to acceleration-deceleration forces, such as those experienced during motor vehicle accidents or falls. DAI is caused by shearing forces that tear the axons, which are the nerve fibers that connect the brain cells. DAI can cause severe brain damage and long-term cognitive and neurological deficits.

In contrast, secondary brain injury occurs after the initial trauma and is caused by a series of complex physiological and biochemical processes that occur over time. Secondary brain injury can be caused by factors such as inflammation, cerebral edema, hypoxia, or ischemia, which can lead to further brain damage and worsen the patient’s condition.

Types Of Primary Brain Injury

The two main types of primary injuries are:

Penetrating (Open-Head)

An open-head wound from a foreign item, e.g., a bullet, constitutes a penetrating (open-head) injury.Typically, focal injuries—such as a broken or perforated skull, ripped meninges, and damage to the brain’s tissue—occur along the path the item followed inside the brain.

Nonpenetrating (Closed-Head)

A nonpenetrating (closed-head) injury is characterized by indirect impact-related brain damage without foreign objects entering the brain. There may or may not be an injury to the skull, but the meninges have not been penetrated. There are two categories of nonpenetrating injuries:

  • The brain’s movement brings acceleration injuries within an unfettered head (e.g., whiplash injury).
  • A powerful enough force can induce a contusion at the impact site and another bruise on the opposite side of the skull if it strikes the head (coup-contrecoup injury).

Examples of Primary Brain Injuries

Primary injuries may have a collateral effect, leading to secondary injuries. Secondary injuries develop over time and are often the outcome of processes started by the initial trauma. A few examples  of primary brain injury include:

  • Cerebral edema (brain swelling)
  • Raised intracranial pressure (increased pressure inside the skull), which can result in herniation (in which brain parts are displaced)
  • Hypercapnia (excessive blood co2 levels)
  • Hypoxia (insufficient blood flow)
  • Hypo/hypertension (low/high blood pressure)
  • Cerebral ischemia (insufficient blood flow),
  • Hypoxia (insufficient oxygen in the brain)
  • Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain).
  • Meningitis
  • Brain abscess
  • Biochemical abnormalities (varying levels of neurotransmitters, sodium, potassium, etc.)
  • Epilepsy

Secondary Brain Injury

Doctors have uncovered a variety of secondary brain injuries that affect people who have suffered brain injuries. Free radical overload is one. A free radical is an ion, molecule, or atom with a loose link. It regulates many crucial biological functions, including blood pressure and vascular tone. Free radicals destroy brain cells and can result in various outcomes, including dementia and mobility difficulties. Some types of brain trauma can increase the number of free radicals in the brain.

Subarachnoid hemorrhages are another typical subsequent brain injury. This is bleeding in the area where the skull and the brain meet. Blood accumulation in this area can put pressure on the brain. Another possibility is hypoxia. The lack of oxygen to the brain causes brain cell death, resulting in this secondary brain damage. Edema, hypertension, brain herniation or displacement, hematomas, and infections are some other forms of subsequent brain injuries.

Symptoms and Signs of Secondary Brain Injury

After a trauma, secondary brain damage symptoms do not appear immediately or even after several hours. The signs of a secondary brain injury might appear within 12 to 24 hours or as late as 10 days, in contrast to primary brain damage, which manifests itself immediately following the accident.

Blood vessel damage, contusions, skull fractures, and ripped or stretched neuronal axons are all symptoms of open brain trauma. People who have suffered primary brain damage may become partially paralyzed, mute, or unconscious in seconds. In contrast, those who have suffered secondary brain damage may feel good after the accident but start having symptoms hours or even days later. Possible secondary brain damage symptoms include:

  • Recurring severe headaches
  • Issues with vision or declining visual stability
  • Memory loss or short-term memory issues
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Fainting or vertigo
  • Moodiness, severe sadness, or changes in personality
  • Changes in dietary patterns
  • Sudden convulsions or seizures
  • A lack of senses (loss of smell and hearing)
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Unable to communicate, speak well, or comprehend what others are saying

What Causes Two Stages of Brain Injuries?

The brain is a very intricate organ. It is composed of fragile cells, blood vessels, tissues, and nerves. Traumatic brain injury can immediately cause damage to various tissues, cells, and components. This harm results from trauma, such as the bursting or ripping of blood vessels or tissues. A skull fracture or an open head injury are two instances when the bone has been penetrated. The initial injury may alter the brain in a way that causes further cell and tissue death. This secondary brain damage entails a complex process of degeneration, degradation, and death of brain cells. While the brain injury victim is still in the hospital, further injuries frequently occur.

Typical Causes of Brain Injury

Children and adults can sustain brain injuries from a variety of causes. The most frequent sources of traumatic brain injuries are:

  • Violent acts
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents (when the individual is either a passenger or is injured as a pedestrian)

Can a Secondary Brain Injury Be Prevented?

Secondary brain injuries may cause significant and irreparable damage, which makes them potentially lethal for brain injury victims. A brain cell can usually not regenerate once it has died. This is why it’s important to visit a doctor or hospital immediately after striking your head or sustaining any brain injury. In certain circumstances, prompt detection of primary brain damage enables medical professionals to take precautions to avoid secondary brain injury.

Although it’s not always feasible to stop a secondary injury, it could be possible if a doctor could predict what the secondary injury would be based on the mechanics of the first injury and provide preventive therapies. For instance, bleeding in the brain and intracranial infections are likely to result from a penetrating head injury. With this knowledge, a doctor or neurosurgeon can take precautions to prevent possible future injuries.

“The Heavy Hitters” Are Here to Represent Your Brain Injury Case

With the help of a brain injury attorney, the following individuals may be eligible to seek financial compensation for their brain injuries:

  • Victims of car, truck, or motorcycle accidents brought on by careless drivers
  • People who sustained a brain injury from a  workplace accidents
  • Slip-and-fall injuries that occurred on another property due to a hazardous condition
  • Victims of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice that can result in secondary brain damage includes incorrect diagnosis, surgical/prescription mistakes, birth injuries, subpar care, and dangerous medical therapy.
  • People injured by defective products.
  • Those who have been sustained brain injury due to acts of violence
  • This list is by no means exhaustive.

We would be honored to assist you if you or someone you know has sustained a brain injury due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another party. Do not hesitate to contact North Carolina’s traumatic brain injury law firm, Tatum & Atkinson, “the Heavy Hitters,” for a free consultation. Call (800) 529-0804 or contact us online as soon as possible to set up a confidential case evaluation. Let’s fight for you and your family. You owe us nothing if you don’t get compensated.

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