An umbrella term that refers to any type of head injury, Healthline defines head trauma as any injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. The gravity of head injuries varies from minor to life-threatening, and an individual suffering from an injury to the head may require emergency medical care.
Head trauma affects people of all ages. Causes of injuries to the head include:
- Slips and falls
- Car accidents
- Sports injuries
- Physical abuse, such as blows to the head or violent shaking
An article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society notes that people aged 75 and older account for the highest rates of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that lead to hospitalization and death. Changes in the physiology of the brain as adults age and the common prescription of blood thinners to elderly patients play a role in their susceptibility to head trauma, particularly when combined with accidents or abuse.
Types of Head Trauma
As a general term, head trauma describes a range of conditions. The medical field deems any injury to the head a form of head trauma, but not all injuries should raise concern. From small scrapes to TBIs, types of injuries vary in nature and severity. Healthline outlines some of the major forms of head trauma.
In most cases, the skull proves efficient in preventing serious injury. Nearly everyone will experience scratches, bumps, and bruises on their heads at one point in time or another, and these minor afflictions typically heal on their own and rarely lead to any complications. However, they may affect older adults more severely.
Hematomas and Hemorrhages
When an individual suffers a substantial amount of force to the head, such as in a physical assault or a vehicle collision, the impact may cause active bleeding from the veins or arteries in the brain, known as a hemorrhage, or a collection of blood in a localized area, which doctors refer to as a hematoma. Both conditions carry a high risk of life-threatening complications and require immediate medical assistance. Doctors often recommend emergency surgery to save the patient’s life.
A concussion occurs when a sudden impact causes the brain to hit the walls of the skull. Most of the time, concussions resolve on their own and do not cause lasting damage. However, concussions in elderly people and repeated occurrences may present a higher risk of permanent brain damage.
Despite its thick, resilient composition, the skull can break in extreme circumstances. Incidents that cause skull fractures typically involve strong blows to the head, which the skull cannot absorb. Because of its proximity to the brain, skull fractures often result in brain damage, as well.
Recognizing Signs of Head Trauma in Loved Ones
Parents and those with family members in nursing homes should take special care to observe their loved ones for signs of head trauma. If you notice bruises, bumps, or other marks on your loved one’s head that seem suspicious, do not hesitate to talk to them about their injuries and how they happened. If they cannot communicate with you or show no visible signs of trauma, other symptoms may indicate head trauma. Mayo Clinic lists signs of head injury that require emergency care. They may include:
- Severe headache
- Confusion or weakness
- Problems with speech or vision
- Discoloration that looks like bruising under the eyes or behind the ears
- Fluid leaking from the nose or ears
- One pupil larger than the other
- Trouble breathing or loss of consciousness
Medical Care for Head Trauma
Medical professionals cannot always determine the extent of the injury by simply looking at the location of the injury. While doctors can observe open injuries, such as lacerations to the scalp, closed or internal injuries often require imaging to confirm their type, diagnosis, and location. Healthline discusses common procedures for testing and treating head injuries.
While your doctor may tentatively diagnose you after asking you questions and performing basic evaluations, they may proceed with testing to confirm the condition and help them decide the best course of action for treatment. The most common types of tests used in the diagnosis of brain injuries include CT scans and MRIs.
The course of treatment for head trauma varies greatly based on the type, severity, and location of the injury. Treatments may include:
- Surgery to remove intracranial pressure (ICP) and drain bleeding
- Medication to reduce swelling and prevent seizures
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
While patients with minor head trauma rarely suffer complications, those with severe injuries have a higher risk of death, cognitive impairment, and physical disability. Medical professionals urge those who suffered head trauma or suspect injury in their loved one seek emergency medical care.
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable for Head Trauma
According to a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), 44% of nursing home residents interviewed said that nursing home staff abused them. Nursing homes have a responsibility to keep their residents comfortable and safe from harm. If you believe that your loved one suffered head trauma due to physical abuse by nursing home staff, our attorneys can help you seek accountability and compensation.