A brain injury is caused when the soft tissue of the brain comes into contact with the inside of the skull. The severity of the injury depends on the force with which the brain contacts the skull. Severe injuries can cause the brain to swell and retain fluid, which can lead to death. Even the slightest brain injury can cause severe damage to a person’s nervous system or cognitive ability, and the symptoms can last for up to one year. A person’s reactions to a brain injury depend on what part of the brain sustained damage and how severe the damage is.
The first goal of any brain injury treatment is to stabilize the brain and reduce swelling. When the brain sustains injury, it begins to swell immediately. Swollen brain tissue can fill the cranial cavity quickly. Since there is no avenue for pressure release, the swelling can cause blood vessels and tissue to become even more damaged as it progresses. Initial brain injury treatments should be to have the injured person lie still so that the brain doesn’t become further traumatized. Most brain injuries can be treated through inactivity and over the counter pain medications.
Brain Injury Medication
In some cases, the brain injury treatment may require the use of prescription medication. Emergency medical technicians may give a person with a head injury some form of diuretics to reduce the swelling. The diuretics work by causing the brain tissues to expel moisture, which can make them stop swelling and begin to retract. Once the brain has been stabilized, a doctor might recommend the use of prescription medication to protect the patient from possible seizures. In severe cases, doctors may give an injured individual a coma-inducing medication so that the brain can operate using less oxygen until the swelling has reduced.
Severe brain injuries can lead to the loss of normal bodily function. Once the brain has recovered sufficiently, a patient will begin the rehabilitation process in order to regain normal functions like walking or talking. Rehabilitation therapy generally begins before the patient leaves the hospital, and continues until the patient is able to function independently. Some basic behaviors may have to be relearned through repeated therapy sessions. If the brain was damaged and cannot heal, the patient may need to learn how to live independently without some of the normal functions of a healthy brain. If the loss of function is severe enough, the patient may be transferred to a rehabilitation center before they are allowed to go home.
Surgical Procedures for Severe Injuries
If the brain is injured severely enough, a surgeon will need to perform invasive surgical procedures to help with the healing process. When the brain continues to swell, a doctor may choose to open a hole in the skull to relieve the pressure until the brain begins to reduce in size. Some brain injuries can cause blood clots, which must be removed through surgery so that they don’t get into the bloodstream and cause further complications. In some cases a portion of the skull may be depressed enough that it actually presses against the side of the brain. Brain injury treatments in these cases involve surgically altering the damaged area of the skull so that the pressure is reduced. Many brain injuries heal without surgical intervention, but some require more help than others.