Q&A with Bronson Neurointensivist Larry Morgan on Head Trauma and Tips to Keep You Safe

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Published on March 22, 2022

Q&A with Bronson Neurointensivist Larry Morgan on Head Trauma and Tips to Keep You Safe

Did you know that millions of people in the United States suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year? Most often these are caused by a fall or sudden blunt hit to the head.

March is nationally recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month, providing an important opportunity to:

  1. Bring attention to TBI
  2. Learn how to stop TBIs
  3. Learn how to help improve the quality of life for people living with TBI

To learn more about what this means and when you should seek medical care after a hit to the head, we caught up with Dr. Larry Morgan, a neurointensivist with the Bronson Neuroscience Center.

Q: If someone suffers a ‘blunt head trauma’ how would they know the injury was serious enough to cause death?
A
: When it comes to blunt force trauma, a major concern is internal bleeding or bruising on the brain. Typically, it’s obvious if someone has suffered an injury bad enough to result in this type of trauma. They may have symptoms such as:

  • Pain from blood touching the lining of the brain (since the brain itself cannot feel pain).
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

They may also have deficits associated with the areas of the brain that have been injured, such as:

  • Weakness
  • Trouble speaking
  • Seizures

Q: What exactly is happening when there is bleeding in the skull? 
A
: There are many areas within the skull that can bleed, all of which can injure the brain. A strike to certain parts of the head can lead to fractures in multiple areas of the skull. The blood that develops around the injury compresses the brain tissue.

Since the skull does not expand, this leads to a cascade of events in which the pressure from the blood on the brain causes more injury if not treated right away.

Q: Most people have experienced a ‘bump on the head,’ or mild concussion at some point in their life. What is the difference between this and a brain bleed? 
A: Concussions are functional disturbances of the brain that don’t break blood vessels. Even so, the brain is not working the way it is supposed to.

Concussions can occur with brain bleeding, but not all concussions are associated with bleeding.

Q: What life-saving measures do doctors perform if someone has a brain bleed?
A: Identifying a brain bleed early is critical. Doctors can control the bleeding and take action to reverse the effect of blood thinners the patient may be taking. These treatments help reduce bleeding to prevent further injury. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove blood that is present.

Q: What should someone do if they experience a head injury that may be serious?
A: For less severe “bumps on the head,” having someone who can keep an eye on you for any major changes like those described above is a good idea. If you bump your head and are feeling fine right after, there is not likely much to worry about.

If you feel ‘off’ after a head injury or you are experiencing any neurologic issues (weakness, trouble speaking, a seizure, etc.) you are likely experiencing a more serious injury. In this case, you should be checked out at the nearest emergency department.

Q: Is there anything else people should know? 
A: As is the case with almost all health-related issues, prevention is very important. The majority of head trauma can be avoided, or at least reduced, by taking precautions.  Wear a helmet during high-risk sports and activities and follow recognized safety guidelines. 

Learn more about services and treatments for head, neck and spine injuries:

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