An injury or trauma to the scalp, skull and/or brain is termed as head injury. It can result in a minor bump on the skull or lead to a serious brain injury by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the brain. Some of the serious complications of a head injury include mental impairment, permanent disability and death.
A head injury can be caused due to various factors such as –
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Head injuries also include –
- Skull fractures: Sometimes, s skull fracture can lead to brain injury due to pieces of bone damaging the brain tissue and nerves.
- Wounds of the scalp: They can be caused due to gunshot, surgery or even any infection of the scalp due to a bacteria or fungus.
- Concussions: It is a traumatic brain injury that alters the brain functions. It can be caused by not only an injury to the head but also if the person’s head or upper body has been shaken violently.
- Bleeding: A head injury may lead to bleeding of the brain tissue or rupturing of other layers of the brain.
A head injury is broadly classified into two categories namely open and closed type.
Open head injury: An injury that fractures the skull and penetrates the brain is called an open head injury.
Closed head injury: In a closed head injury, the skull is intact however; the brain may be affected leading to brain damage or bleeding in the brain.
You may observe symptoms of a head injury that moment you met with an incident or after some days depending upon the severity of the injury. Although you may not experience any visible signs, your brain got bruised due to head injury. Here are some of the common signs of head injury –
In case of severe head injury, you may show the following symptoms.
- Mismatched pupil sizes
- Loss of senses
- Bleeding ears or nose
- Inability to move certain body parts
The diagnosis of head injury is usually based on the severity of your symptoms. In case of severe head injury, your doctor might recommend few tests to determine the extent of brain damage. These tests are –
X-rays: They help in the detection of fracture of the skull and also help out to know whether any pieces of bone have entered the brain.
CT scan: It analyzes the internal structures of body and thus, aids in the diagnosis of traumatic injuries like a blood clot or a skull fracture, tumours or an infection. Here are CT scans: top 10 facts you should know.
MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended to assess the extent of the damage caused to the skull.
If you suffered from a severe head injury and are unresponsive or unconscious due to coma, your doctor might determine the severity of the condition with the help of the Glasgow Coma Scale. It measures the severity of coma by assessing eye opening response, verbal response and motor response. A total score of 15 indicates best response, score of 8 or less signifies that the person is in coma and a score of 3 means that the person is totally unresponsive. Here’s what the Glasgow coma scale is -
Glasgow Coma Scale
|Type of behaviour
||Response of the patient
|Eye opening (E)
|Verbal response (V)
|Confused conversation but can answer questions
|Inappropriate response to questions
|Motor response (M)
|Withdraws from pain
If you are suffering from minor head injuries, your doctor might prescribe analgesics (pain killers) to relieve pain. However, close monitoring might also be needed to rule out any serious complication caused due to head injury. Read more about painkillers or analgesics: side-effects and precautions.
For severe head injuries immediate medical attention is required to prevent brain damage or death. Apart from this, some of the treatment modalities that might be involved include –
Sedation – This involves use of sedative drugs which play a key role in management of the pain and relaxes the nervous system and relieves irritation leading to effective treatment of the injury.
Breathing support – In case of severe damage to the brain, you might require ventilation support to improve breathing and thus, aid in the treatment process.
Neurosurgery – If the head injury has affected neurons present in the brain or any nerves in the head region, neurosurgery might be required to treat head injury.
Craniotomy – It is surgery done to expose the brain by temporary removal of the cranium, skull bone thereby helping out in the treatment of head injury.
In some cases, a severe head injury might lead to serious complications including brain damage and death. Here are some of the common complications of untreated head injury.
Brain damage: Injury to the brain predisposes you to various problems including formation of a blood clot in the brain (haematoma) or bleeding in the brain. It may also lead to unconsciousness (coma). Here are few facts about coma you should be aware of.
Infection: You might not be aware that skull fractures increase your risk of infections as they provide a site for the bacteria to enter the wound or brain.
Post-concussion syndrome: In this case, you experience symptoms of concussion even after sustaining the condition for a long period.
As kids are more prone to injuries due to their mischievous nature, parents need to be extra careful to prevent head injuries. These include –
- Usage of bicycle helmets or hard hats
- Not letting kids play on the stairs or jump on furniture
- Never leave small kids alone in the home (especially on a bed or sofa)
- Employ safety measure such as keeping your home clutter free and always cleaning the floor (to remove oil stains or leaked water). Here’s everything you need to know about healthy home.
Also read about 19 baby care tips for every new mum.
Apart from these, elders also need to keep in mind few precautionary measures to prevent head injury such as –
- Never drink and drive (Read about side effects of alcohol)
- Always wear a helmet when on bike and seat belt while driving in a car.
- Use the correct safety equipment at work or sports
Read about health benefits of sports for children.