03-01-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. A brain injury can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone. Brain injuries do not discriminate. Did you know that 1.7 million people will sustain a brain injury each year? An injury that happens in an instant can bring a lifetime of physical, cognitive and behavior challenges. Early and comprehensive care can greatly improve outcomes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among children ages 0 to 14 years, traumatic brain injury (TBI)results in an estimated 2,685 deaths, 37,000 hospitalizations and 435,000 emergency department visits each year. About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).
“Just as no two people are exactly alike and no two brain injuries are exactly alike,” says Laurence Kleiner, MD, director of neurosurgery at Dayton Children’s. “Not all head injuries will result in brain injury – however parents should know the signs and symptoms of potential brain injury.”
The brain is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid, but a severe blow to the head may knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels. Some internal head injuries — complications of a fractured skull, torn blood vessels, or damage to the brain itself — can be serious and possibly life threatening.
“Different levels of injury require different levels of concern,” says Kleiner. “It can be difficult to determine the level of injury, so it's always wise to discuss a head injury with your pediatrician.”
"Most of the head injuries we see are not brain injuries, but we always check for certain symptoms and may keep a child for observation if he or she comes to the emergency department with a head injury," Dr. Kleiner explains.
Whether at the emergency department or the urgent care, Dayton Children’s doctors will check your child’s eyes, ears, reflexes and ability to respond appropriately. Your child may be kept for observation to check for any worsening of symptoms. If the doctor feels it is necessary, a CT (computed tomography) scan may be ordered for your child.
But when should you seek medical attention?
With many head injuries, the worst thing that happens is that your child cries and develops a bump on the head. Soon the child is back to normal. In these situations, calling the doctor or visiting the urgent care is not needed.
If, however, your child does not return to normal soon and develops certain symptoms that get worse or don’t go away, be sure to call your child’s doctor or visit Dayton Children’s Urgent Care or the emergency department.
What symptoms should I watch for?
- Unusual sleepiness. It is okay to let your child sleep, but be sure to check on your child every two to four hours for the first 12 hours after the injury. Your child should wake easily and act normally. (If your child acts normally when you wake him or her at night, it is okay to let the child go right back to sleep).
- Memory loss, confusion or trouble concentrating, or other changes in personality such as becoming impulsive, reckless, aggressive or showing abnormal behavior.
- Increasing headache
- Stiff neck
- Nausea or vomiting (two or more times of vomiting in the 12 hours after the injury)
- Bleeding or clear drainage from the nose or ears
- Trouble hearing
- Dizziness, blurred or double vision (children close one eye to try to correct this), unequal pupil size
- Weakness, numbness or tingling of the arms and legs.
- Usually after a trip to the emergency department or urgent care, children can be sent home for you to continue any observation or treatment.
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