to Seek Medical Attention for a Head Injury
By Dr. Ben
the wake of the tragic passing of actress Natasha Richardson, I'd
like to share a few details that everyone should know about head
injuries and when to seek medical attention for one.
on what I've read in several newspaper reports, Natasha Richardson
died from an epidural hematoma, which medical professionals will
tell you is one of the most frightening conditions around because
it can be caused by a low force blow to the head, and also because
initially, there may be no signs to indicate that a serious injury
Understanding Epidural Hematomas
brain is surrounded by three thin layers of connective tissue that
are collectively called your meninges. The outermost meningeal layer
is called dura mater, and the thin space between your dura mater
and the bones that make up your skull is called your epidural space.
the sides of your head in the area around your temples, your epidural
space houses an artery called your middle meningeal artery, whose
job is to provide steady blood supply to your meninges. The portion
of skull that protects this area is quite thin and weak compared
to the rest of your skull. This is why even a low force blow to
this area could lead to a fracture and tearing of your middle meningeal
your middle meningeal artery was torn or lacerated, blood could
quickly begin to pool in your epidural space. Because your heart
would continue to send blood to the area and this blood wouldn't
be drained by your veins, the net effect of a torn middle meningeal
artery would be increased pressure on your brain tissues, which
could lead to death of brain cells from oxygen deprivation.
Symptoms and Common Causes of Epidural Hematomas
50% of people who experience epidural hematomas briefly lose consciousness,
but appear to be just fine when they come to. If pressure in the
head continues to build, over a period of a few hours, a searing
headache tends to develop as increased intracranial pressure causes
the dura mater to tear away from the skull.
signs and symptoms that may develop with an epidural hematoma include:
on one side of the body
keys to preventing serious brain damage and death from an epidural
hematoma is to recognize what has happened, and for the blood to
be aspirated by a neurosurgeon.
long recommended that any person who suffers a blow to the side
of the head - especially in the temple region - be carefully monitored
for any of the signs noted above, and to be ready to visit a physician
causes of epidural hematomas include:
Skiing and snowboarding falls that involve head trauma. According
to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 1.5 million
Americans suffered brain injuries in 2007, and more than 10,000
of these injuries occurred while skiing or snowboarding.
blows to the head during physical altercations.
if you ever take part in an activity where there's a strong chance
that you could experience a blow to your head, it's wise to wear
a helmet. And there's nothing prissy about making the decision to
avoid high-risk activities like boxing, high-speed skiing, and high-level
contact sports like football and hockey.
note that there are many different forms of internal bleeding in
the skull, and epidural hematomas can arise from tears or lacerations
of arteries other than the middle meningeal artery.
major type of internal bleeding in the head is a subdural hematoma,
where the bleeding occurs below the dura mater. Subdural hematomas
are a leading cause of brain injury and death in battered children
- direct blows by a care-giver's hand, a child's head being smashed
against a hard object, or violent shaking of a small child can all
lead to serious injury and death through internal bleeding.
all cases of head injuries, the warning to heed remains the same:
If you suffer a blow to the head, even if you feel fine immediately
afterward, stay alert for signs of discomfort and consider being
evaluated by a physician if you feel anything out of the ordinary
- even a mild headache that comes on after experiencing blunt force
to your head should not be ignored.
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