One of the top causes of traumatic brain injury is motor vehicle accidents. Even so, many people who get into a collision on the Pennsylvania roadways choose not to seek medical attention, even if they feel dizzy or have a headache in the few hours after the crash.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, doctors can rarely reverse the damage caused by the blow to the head, but they may be able to prevent further brain damage caused by a TBI.
What is a TBI?
The Mayo Clinic explains that a blow interrupting the function of the brain causes a TBI. The blow doesn't have to be to the head, though. For example, the force of the impact may cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull, even though the air bag kept the driver from hitting the steering wheel.
Why do symptoms get worse over time?
There are a number of circumstances that could cause a relatively mild blow to the head to turn into serious brain damage, or even death. When a person gets a bruise, the blood builds up under the skin, and there is often swelling. If blood vessels in the brain break and leak into the surrounding tissue, the swelling causes pressure inside the skull that can kill brain cells.
If a tear in a blood vessel is very small, the pressure could build so gradually that a person may not begin having symptoms for two weeks or more. The first signs of a brain injury may then seem unrelated, especially since many can be caused by other factors. For example, sleeping too much or not enough, depression, headache, anxiety and irritability are all indicators of brain dysfunction after a TBI.
Those are not the only source of delayed problems, though. When blood clots, the hardened mass should dissipate as the wound heals. Sometimes, instead, the gelled blood shifts so that it blocks blood vessels, depriving the brain of oxygen and causing a stroke.
How can a doctor help?
A doctor will typically perform a thorough examination of a car accident victim who goes to the emergency room. Tests may include a CT scan or MRI, which provide images of the inside of the skull. When issues are obvious, immediate treatments may be called for. However, a doctor may be able to identify even a very small brain bleed and order follow-up tests to monitor the injury until it has healed on its own, or provide timely treatment if the issue worsens.