Duration Health

Concussion and Head Injury

Introduction

Trauma to the head and traumatic brain injury (TBI) occur due to a direct blow, strike or jolt to the head and include injuries ranging from simple scalp lacerations (cuts) or abrasions (scrapes), to concussions, skull fractures, or severe swelling or bleeding in the brain. Lacerations and wounds to the skin are discussed later in the guide. In mild traumatic brain injury, there is generally no loss of consciousness and often a mild headache. In moderate traumatic brain injury, there may be transient loss of consciousness, temporary blurred vision, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and transient amnesia or confusion. More severe traumatic injury to the brain can cause bleeding in the brain or skull fractures, leading to prolonged loss of consciousness, severe headache, protracted vomiting, lowered heart rate or erratic breathing, decreased responsiveness or coma.

A mild or moderate traumatic brain injury, where trauma to the head results in a temporary change in brain function, is sometimes called a concussion.

Treatment

For moderate and especially for severe head trauma and brain injury, you must seek medical attention immediately as severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a life-threatening condition that can cause rapid deterioration and death. Any trauma to the brain that causes swelling or bleeding will increase the pressure inside the skull and can be fatal quickly. In these cases, immobilize the spine and immediately evacuate the patient to the nearest medical care.

Mild head injuries with no loss of consciousness and only mild headache are usually not serious or life-threatening and the headache can be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. After mild head injury it is also very important to be vigilant and careful to prevent a second traumatic injury to the brain, as this can compound symptoms and cause worsening of concussion.

Some head injuries that initially seem minor can cause slow bleeding in the brain that causes deterioration and death hours later. Therefore, someone who experiences a mild or moderate head injury should be observed for at least 24 hours for any change in behavior. If you are traveling alone and experience a head injury but decide not to seek medical attention, you should still seek out other people who could call for help if you get worse.

In someone who has had a mild head injury without loss of consciousness and has been behaving normally for many hours, it is generally not necessary to awaken them during the night to check on them.

When To Worry

Seek immediate medical care after a head injury if you have any of the following:

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