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Types of head injury

Almost everyone bangs their head at sometime or other and around a million people a year in the UK are treated for head injuries at A&E units, with 25% of these requiring admission for treatment and monitoring.

Head injuries can vary from a simple bump, which often producing dramatic looking swellings but present little danger, through to invasive injuries which cause damage to the brain resulting in serious problems such as speech loss, or loss of motor function.

So how should you react to a head injury, and what treatment is available?

This article on head injury treatment is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.


Assessing it

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to seek treatment for a head injury. These will help you establish the severity of the damage. If the person harmed does not lose consciousness or experience any other symptoms beyond feeling sore and a little embarrassed, then they can simply rest at home with an ice pack to reduce the swelling.

However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention in the form of head injury treatment at the A&E department as soon as possible:

  • Persistent headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of blood through the ears or nose

In addition, anyone who becomes unconscious as a result of a head injury should get checked out for concussion.

What to do in the event of a injury

In the event of a mild-to-moderate injury, you should ask someone to drive you to your local A&E department. Under no circumstances should you drive yourself to hospital following a head injury as you may lose consciousness, or your cognitive abilities may be dangerously reduced. You could harm yourself further or put other people’s lives in danger.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to keep a head injury patient awake. In fact, in the case of traumatised children it is often better for them to fall asleep and awaken calm and in control at the hospital.

In the case of severe head injuries, you should call an ambulance immediately in order to place the victim in expert hands as soon as possible.

It should be remembered that the severity of a head injury may not be immediately apparent. You should therefore keep a careful watch on a head injury victim for several days, looking out for symptoms such as a headache that gets steadily worse, difficulty in walking, repeated vomiting, slurred speech, or weakness/numbness in any part of the body. These symptoms may not show up straight away, but may appear over the course of a few days following an accident. If you have any doubts at all, you should take the person to your local A&E to be checked out.

Treatment

For minor head injuries, the treatment is often just a case of observation overnight (or for a few days at most) in hospital. For major head trauma, the treatment is inevitably much more complex.

There is currently no treatment for injuries to the brain (known as Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI). If the brain has been damaged by a sudden impact, or by the penetration of skull fragments or other objects, it cannot be repaired. The head and neck will be scanned using X-ray or CT scans to establish the extent of the damage, and initial treatment will therefore be focussed on preventing any further damage by stabilising the area and operating to remove any debris from inside the skull. Around half of severe head injuries also require surgery to repair or remove ruptured blood vessels or bruised brain tissue.

The extent of the damage will depend on the type and location of the injury, and can range from problems with motor skills and communication, through personality changes, such as depression and aggressive behaviour, to coma and at worst a persistent vegetative state.

Since every injury is different, each patient will require their own, bespoke programme of care and rehabilitation. Typical therapies include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Psychiatric support
  • Emotional counselling

Conclusion

Even the simplest of head injuries needs to be taken very seriously and monitored carefully. What may appear no more than a bump on the head may actually be hiding something far more serious. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and your local A&E unit will be happy to help.

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