Brain Injury

A violent blunt or penetrating force to the head may cause brain injury. Two of the most common types of brain injury are concussions and contusions, which result in a bruise on the brain. Common causes of head injury include traffic and sports accidents, falls, and physical assault. Because our brain defines who we are, a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality. A change in brain function can have a dramatic impact on family, job, social and community interaction.  

What are the Symptoms of a Brain Injury?

The signs of a brain injury can occur immediately or develop slowly over several hours. Learning to recognize a serious brain injury and implementing basic first aid can make the difference in saving someone's life. Many complications can occur from bleeding or swelling inside of the brain. Too much pressure can crowd and damage important structures, including those that control breathing and heart rate.

The following symptoms suggest a serious brain injury and require emergency medical treatment:

  • Loss of consciousness, confusion or drowsiness
  • Low breathing rate or drop in blood pressure 
  • Convulsions
  • Fracture in the skull or face and/or facial bruising
  • Swelling at the site of the injury or scalp wound
  • Fluid drainage from nose, mouth or ears (may be clear or bloody)
  • Severe headache
  • Initial improvement followed by worsening symptoms
  • Irritability (especially in children), personality changes or unusual behavior
  • Restlessness and clumsiness, lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or blurred vision
  • Inability to move one or more limbs
  • Stiff neck or vomiting
  • Pupil changes
  • Inability to hear, see, taste or smell

Expert Diagnosis for Brain Injury at Sentara

Our doctors act quickly to diagnose a brain injury. Once the injury is diagnosed, it can take weeks to assess the long-term damage following a brain injury. Tests such as CT scans, MRIs and X-rays may be conducted to determine the extent of the brain injury. In some cases, an intra-cranial pressure (ICP) device is inserted to measure pressure changes.