Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious and complex public health issue.
TBI statistics show that it affects millions of Americans each year and that it can occur at any age from multiple causes. However, certain groups face disproportionate risk.
Children ages 0-4 have the highest rates of TBI-related emergency department visits. Older adolescents aged 15-19 are also extremely vulnerable due to risk-taking behaviors and sports injuries. Elderly adults over age 75 have high injury rates as well, mostly stemming from falls.
But what exactly is a traumatic brain injury? What are the main signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury? And what can you do if a medical error resulted or worsened your traumatic brain injury? These are some of the common questions that patients with TBI frequently ask. Here are the answers.
Overview of TBI
TBI occurs when an external force such as a bump, blow, or jolt causes disruption of normal brain function. It encompasses anything from a mild concussion to severe open-head trauma with catastrophic physical injuries.
Here are more things you should know about traumatic brain injuries.
- Concussions and other forms of mild TBI make up the majority of incidents. But even injuries on the minor end of the spectrum carry risks of cumulative damage if repeated head blows occur before full healing.
- The severity ranges from mild concussions to severe, life-threatening brain damage.
- Blast injuries are a major cause of TBI in active military personnel.
- Brain trauma is sometimes called an “invisible injury” since even severe effects may not be visible.
- Rapid diagnosis and careful monitoring is crucial to prevent secondary injury cascades.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries
Mild forms of TBI, commonly called concussions, often do not result in loss of consciousness. But even mild brain trauma can have lasting consequences, especially if head injuries are repeated before full recovery occurs. Recognizing subtle signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury facilitates prompt concussion diagnosis and management.
Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury: Common Acute Concussion Symptoms
- Headache or a feeling of head pressure
- Temporary confusion, disorientation
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness, loss of balance, nausea
- Blurred or double vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Slurred speech
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury: Cognitive and Emotional Symptoms
- Memory deficits – inability to recall events before or after injury
- Slower processing speed, depleted attention span
- Reduced ability to follow instructions and multitask
- Impaired judgment or loss of impulse control
- Irritability, anxiety, depression, emotional mood swings
- Inappropriate or exaggerated emotional reactions
Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury: Sleep Pattern Disruptions
- Excessive drowsiness or sleeping more than usual
- Insomnia – inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Repeated nighttime awakenings, difficulty achieving REM sleep
- Sleep cycle disruptions and nightmares
Early concussion diagnosis facilitates managing symptoms to promote healing and prevent recurrent injury. However, subtle signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury are usually easily overlooked, allowing mild TBI to go untreated. Repeated blows before full recovery can have cumulative effects.
Moderate to Severe Signs And Symptoms Of A Traumatic Brain Injury
Worsening trauma causes more pronounced brain injury symptoms that require intensive monitoring and urgent intervention to limit damage.
Moderate TBI Indicators
- Loss of consciousness lasting minutes up to hours
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Convulsions, seizures, or muscle spasms
- Slurred speech, confusion, agitation
- One or both pupils dilated and slow to respond
- Drainage of clear fluids from the nose or ears
- Loss of coordination, dizziness, vertigo
- Increased sleeping, difficulty waking, lethargy
- Shortened attention span and impaired judgment
Severe TBI Hallmarks
- Prolonged unconsciousness lasting hours, days or weeks
- Coma unresponsive to any stimulation
- Retrograde amnesia before and after the injury event
- Skull fractures, deep head lacerations, hemorrhages
- Widespread neurological deficits – numbness, weakness, paralysis
- Intense headaches, repeated projectile vomiting
- Seizures more challenging to control and longer in duration
- Grunting or moaning progressing to the inability to speak
- Muscular rigidity, abnormal posturing or movements
- Agitation, combativeness and confusion
- Minimal ability to communicate or follow instructions
Severe TBI requires urgent neurosurgery and ICU care to try to stabilize the patient. But the degree of permanent disability relates closely to the extent of initial injury and complications arising during acute care, hospitalization, and rehabilitation.
Special Considerations for Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury
Children with brain trauma have specific risks and needs different from adults. Their rapidly developing brains have greater neuroplasticity to potentially recover lost skills with proper rehabilitative treatment. However, pediatric patients are also especially vulnerable to disruptions in their ongoing cognitive, behavioral and emotional development.
Increased Vulnerability in Young Brains
- Large head size yet thinner skull bones with pneumatization gaps
- Weaker neck muscles less able to absorb force from trauma
- The brain constantly undergoing vital periods of growth and reorganization
- More diffuse axonal injuries at the cellular level
- More widespread potential for neurologic impairment
Common Signs And Symptoms Of A Traumatic Brain Injury: Pediatric Tbi
- Loss of recently attained developmental milestones – walking, talking, toileting
- Impaired concentration, increased distractibility
- Regressive behavior like excessive crying, fearfulness, restlessness
- Problems with feeding or nursing due to oral-motor difficulties
- Unequal pupil sizes, sluggish pupil response
- Language deficits – reduced vocabulary, difficulty understanding
- Loss of newly acquired skills, reversion to an earlier developmental stage
Careful monitoring and age-appropriate rehabilitation therapies give young brains the best chance of regaining lost function and reaching developmental potential. But pediatric TBI often still causes lasting physical, cognitive, behavioral and social impairments affecting quality of life.
Long-Term Effects of Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI should not be viewed as a distinct event, but rather as the start of a chronic health condition. The signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury frequently persist long after the initial injury has occurred. Ongoing or late-onset post-TBI symptoms include:
- Chronic headaches, migraines
- Dizziness, balance issues, vertigo
- Photosensitivity, blurred or double vision
- Altered sense of smell, taste, or hearing
- Disrupted sleep cycles, fatigue, lethargy
- Epileptic seizures
- Motor impairments – weakness, tremors, poor coordination
- Difficulty concentrating and reduced processing speed
- Shortened attention span and memory deficits
- Reduced judgment, problem-solving and decision making
- Inability to filter out distracting stimuli
- Slower thinking and disrupted reasoning skills
- Difficulty initiating tasks, multitasking, and following instructions
Emotional & Behavioral Changes
- Depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, anger
- Impulsivity, aggression, lack of inhibition
- Infantile behaviors, personality changes, social withdrawal
- Lower stress tolerance and sensory processing issues
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Increased Lifetime Health Risks
- Neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia
- Mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Movement disorders
- Stroke risk factors
- Substance abuse as a dysfunctional coping mechanism
Ongoing treatment and rehabilitation help TBI survivors achieve optimal function within their long-term limitations. However, support is needed to adapt expectations and develop new coping strategies.
Hope for Improving TBI Outcomes: Prevention, Training, and Awareness
Traumatic brain injuries remain a challenging condition with profound impacts on patients and families. But progress is possible through:
- Expanding injury prevention efforts and safety protocols to reduce TBI occurrences.
- Prioritizing training for all medical staff involved in treating brain injury patients.
- Developing evidence-based protocols to minimize errors in TBI diagnosis, surgery, medication management, rehabilitation, and follow-up.
- Raising public awareness on the various signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, the importance of proper TBI management and recovery time.
- Increasing research funding to better understand secondary injury mechanisms and develop new treatments.
- Supporting technological advancements in diagnostics, neuromonitoring, neuro-protective drugs, and rehabilitation methods.
- Promoting interdisciplinary collaboration and communication to continually improve TBI patient care and outcomes.
- Offering patient advocacy, education, and support programs for TBI survivors and families at all stages of recovery.
While TBI will remain a threat for the foreseeable future, optimizing medical treatment and management offers hope for better long-term outcomes. Seeking justice when substandard care results in extreme harm related to the signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can also stimulate positive systemic changes.
How Medical Errors Can Worsen Traumatic Brain Injuries
While recognizing symptoms is vital, optimal treatment from knowledgeable healthcare providers offers the best hope for maximal recovery. Medical errors related to TBI management can actually worsen outcomes and cause additional preventable harm. Below are examples of potential medical malpractice issues:
Failure to Promptly Diagnose
Careful concussion screening questions and imaging help diagnose mild TBI. Failure to do so risks worsening repeat injuries before full healing. Delayed diagnosis prevents prompt symptom treatment and counseling on preventing recurrent impacts.
Drugs managing intracranial pressure and brain swelling require individualized dosing. Incorrect medications or dosages can trigger brain herniation, hemorrhage, seizures, or other catastrophic effects.
Neurosurgery can relieve pressure by removing skull fragments and hemorrhages. But surgical errors like damaging blood vessels or removing healthy brain tissue along with damaged areas severely impede recovery.
Failure to Manage Intracranial Pressure
Frequent intracranial pressure monitoring and interventions to maintain safe levels are vital in severe TBI. Neglecting these measures can precipitate herniation and permanent neurologic deficits.
TBI patients rely on customized rehab to relearn lost functions and develop compensatory strategies. Inappropriate therapies or mishandling can disrupt the healing process.
Premature Return to Normal Activities
Experts advise at least 2 weeks of rest before returning to work/school after concussion. Premature clearance puts patients at risk of reinjury before the brain has healed.
Lack of Protection from Second Impact
Once concussed, the brain is vulnerable to further injury until fully recovered. Allowing premature return to activities with high reinjury risk leaves patients susceptible to devastating second-impact syndrome.
Poor Informed Consent
Seeking informed consent from TBI patients and families on procedure risks, alternatives, and likely outcomes is an ethical necessity. Failure to do so appropriately denies them the ability to make educated decisions.
Legal Assistance After Medical Errors
Traumatic brain injuries involve complex symptoms and high risks for medical errors if not properly managed by trained specialists. Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, and optimal treatment, is key, but gaps in provider skills leave patients vulnerable. Houston medical malpractice attorneys offer vital expertise and advocacy when mistakes lead to increased disability or suffering. Their specialized legal guidance facilitates fair compensation for injuries sustained while pushing for healthcare improvements.
Complex TBI cases involving medical negligence often require legal expertise to obtain fair compensation for worsened injuries. Houston, Texas has many accomplished brain injury attorneys with specific TBI litigation experience. They understand how to prove when substandard medical care directly resulted in extended impairment.
Knowledgeable brain injury lawyers in Houston can advise families on options like injury settlement negotiations or courtroom litigation. Their familiarity with TBI informs reasonable expectations. Skilled attorneys approach delicate cases with compassion, while aggressively pursuing justice. Although monetary damages cannot fully undo the harm done, compensation can ease financial burdens following medical mistakes.
Effective legal advocacy also motivates the healthcare system to raise standards and prevent errors. Dedicated Houston legal teams help restore control over life circumstances disrupted by negligence. Families coping with catastrophic TBI need experienced advocates guiding them through the legal process.
Key Elements in Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Malpractice Claims
Pursuing fair compensation in medical malpractice cases involves demonstrating:
- A provider-patient relationship existed, establishing a duty of care.
- The healthcare provider breached accepted standards of care.
- This breach directly caused additional injury or damages.
- Quantifiable economic and non-economic losses resulted.
Proving liability means showing what the medical provider should have done differently under established standards. Expert testimony is generally required to confirm breaches of the standard of care. Evidence must also verify that substandard treatment directly caused the patient’s newly worsened impairments or the worsening of the typical signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury.
Records help quantify concrete damages like extended hospital/ICU stays, higher out-of-pocket care costs, lost income, and ongoing rehab needs. Skilled legal teams also seek damages for harder-to-quantify pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life resulting from provider negligence.
Finding the Right Houston Attorney After a Traumatic Brain Injury
Suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and facing subsequent medical complications turns life upside down for patients and families. As the long process of treatment and rehabilitation begins, valid questions and concerns often arise if certain aspects of medical care appeared questionable or inadequate.
Finding an experienced attorney who specializes in litigating TBI-related malpractice cases can provide critical guidance and advocacy during vulnerable times. But how can patients and families thoughtfully embark on the search for the right brain injury lawyer in Houston? How can they find the perfect partner to help them recover damages for the suffering usually associated with signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury?
Understanding the Legal Basis of Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider breaches the established medical standard of care, resulting in additional avoidable injury or damages to a patient. In TBI cases, this may potentially involve:
- Failure to promptly recognize and diagnose signs of concussion, intracranial bleeding, or worsening brain trauma based on symptoms and diagnostic results.
- Surgical mistakes that remove healthy brain tissue or damage blood vessels, leading to hemorrhage or stroke.
- Medication errors that trigger brain swelling, seizures, or other cascading damage.
- Inadequate or inappropriate rehabilitation services given the patient’s deficits.
- Neglecting to properly monitor or urgently manage elevated intracranial pressure.
- Allowing premature return to normal activities, school, work or sports before the brain has fully healed, risking second impact syndrome.
To have a valid medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that substandard medical care directly caused quantifiable additional harm, such as extended hospitalization, permanent impairment, lost income, unreimbursed medical expenses, ongoing therapies, or other damages. Minor errors unlikely to impact outcomes generally do not constitute actionable malpractice.
Seeking Out Attorneys Experienced in Brain Injury Litigation Specifically
Not all personal injury or medical malpractice lawyers have specialized expertise and experience litigating traumatic brain injury cases.
TBI involves highly complex neurology, neurosurgery, concussion management considerations, medication complications, and customized rehabilitation needs. The right brain injury lawyer in Houston must be intimately familiar with conditions like second impact syndrome, post-concussion syndrome, elevated intracranial pressure, and associated brain swelling risks.
When researching attorneys, ask direct questions about their specific training and background in handling TBI litigation. Thoroughly review their track record with similar past cases and the results obtained. Also confirm the attorney is willing and able to consult multiple independent medical experts, given the challenges involved in proving breaches of the standard of care with complicated TBI treatment. An attorney lacking experience and expertise in this specialized niche could easily fail to recognize potentially valid issues in a case or make tactical mistakes in pursuing litigation.
Seeking Out Reputable Firms With Substantial Resources to Develop Meritorious Cases
Successfully wading through the dense medical details surrounding a TBI malpractice claim requires substantial attorney time and resources. Priority should go to reputable firms with extensive experience building strong investigatory teams for complex cases, including retaining specialized nurses and other medical specialists with TBI expertise. The right attorneys will have well-established connections enabling them to find the most credible, experienced neurology experts to support a plaintiff’s claim.
Be sure to ask prospective firms about the specific qualifications and experience of the medical experts they routinely involve. A reputable attorney’s portfolio should contain physicians from nationally respected institutions at the top of the profession. Also confirm the law firm has substantial financial means to thoroughly develop even expensive, document-intensive cases without cutting corners or taking shortcuts in investigation or expert preparation.
Many underfunded firms quickly become overwhelmed by the demands of complex litigation like TBI cases. Even an otherwise valid malpractice claim related to a brain injury could still be undermined by inadequate attorney investigation and expert support. TBI patients and their families deserve zealous advocates able to surface all pertinent facts in a case and argue the medical details persuasively before judges and juries.
Seeking Out Patient, Compassionate Attorneys Committed to TBI Advocacy
Above all else, TBI patients and families need attorneys who will listen with empathy, compassion, and understanding throughout the process. The road to cognitive, physical, and emotional recovery following a traumatic brain injury is rarely smooth or linear. There will inevitably be frustrations, delays, confusion, missteps, and unanticipated questions arising along the winding path to healing.
When researching attorneys, look for those with a reputation for patience and who are willing to repeatedly explain the intricacies of the legal process, provide realistic expectations for timelines and obstacles, and regularly update families through each phase of a case. Also consider attorneys with proven dedication to generally improving medical care, outcomes, and support for TBI patients, not just winning legal cases. Ask what activities they are involved in related to brain injury foundations, advocacy groups, and the broader support community. Knowledgeable, caring attorneys recognize they are serving fearful families adjusting to a forever-changed life situation.
Carefully Evaluating Logistics and Personal Compatibility
Practical logistical factors also deserve consideration when choosing legal counsel in the midst of incredibly difficult life circumstances. Look for firms with office locations conveniently accessible given your personal situation, whether that involves a long hospitalization, rehabilitation facility stay, or simply recovering at home. Take time to meet with multiple potential attorneys before retaining one to ensure your personality meshes well with theirs. You will be entrusting them to represent your most vital interests for months or years to come.
Make sure to listen to your instincts – if any prospective attorney seems overly sales-oriented, rushed, disconnected, or significantly distracted during your consultations, move on. The right Houston traumatic brain injury lawyer will be fully engaged in your situation, willing to truly listen rather than talk, and interested in nurturing an open and communicative dialogue. You need advisors who ease your transition throughout this challenge, not those who provoke added stress.
Intentionally Researching Providers Improves Outcomes
Taking time to thoroughly research credentials, specialized experience, compassion, communication skills, and logistics helps TBI patients identify the right Houston medical malpractice attorney to advocate for their specific situation. The ideal counsel provides knowledge and dedication to guide families through daunting times, while relentlessly pursuing full accountability for substandard medical care that worsened an already devastating brain trauma. With an experienced TBI litigator helping navigate this complex process, families can focus energy on healing, not wrestling with legal complexities.
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, you need to find out whether the injury was potentially avoidable. If it was, or if a medical error made it worse, you can sue for compensation under medical malpractice laws. And the best way to find out whether you have a case, or the value of your case is to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Houston brain injury attorneys. Use our online contact form, or call us at 713-364-1470 to book a free consultation today.