Head Injury (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Head injury introduction
- What are the causes of head injury?
- What are the symptoms of a head injury?
- What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?
- When should I contact a doctor about a head injury?
- How is a head injury diagnosed?
- How is a head injury treated?
- What is the prognosis for a head injury?
- How can a head injury be prevented?
- What about a head injury in infants and young children?
- Head Injury At A Glance
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is the prognosis for head injury?
The goal for the treatment of any patient is to return to the level of function that they had prior to the injury. This maybe a challenge with head injury, and the return of function depends upon the severity of the injury to the brain.
How can a head injury be prevented?
Prevention is the best way to treat a head injury.
- In sporting activities,
the use of a helmet may help minimize the risk of injury; similarly, wearing a
helmet while riding a motorcycle or bicycle helps minimize the risk of brain
injury. Seatbelts can help prevent a head injury during a motor vehicle crash.
- Since alcohol is a risk factor for falls and other injuries, it should be
- Falls are a concern in the elderly. Homes can be made less fall-prone by installing assist devices on walls and in bathrooms. Loose floor coverings such as area rugs should be avoided, since walking from one floor covering to another increases the risk of falls. If needed, canes and walkers may be helpful as walking assistive devices.
What about a head injury in infants and young children?
Infants are often brought to health care practitioners because of a fall and the parent's concern that a head injury may exist. Most assessment and management guidelines discussed above do not apply to children younger than age two.
A minor head injury in an infant is described by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the following: "a history or physical signs of blunt trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain in an infant or child who is alert or awakens to voice or light touch."
Since an infant cannot verbalize specific complaints, the health care practitioner will look for symptoms that are associated with brain injury and bleeding in infants. These include the following:
- Altered mental status; that is, the child is not acting or behaving
- Scalp abnormalities including lacerations and swelling that may be
associated with skull fracture
A CT scan may be indicated based upon the health care practitioner's assessment of the child. Plain skull X-rays may be ordered to asses for a fracture, as a screening tool to determine the need for a CT scan.
Next: Head Injury At A Glance
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