Types and Classification of Brain Injuries

There are two main types of brain injury: traumatic brain injury and Anoxic and Hypoxic brain injury. Traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as TBI, is an injury to the head and brain usually caused by physical impact. TBIs cause damage and dysfunction to the brain, which may be cause permanent damage in severe cases.

Fortunately, the law enables victims of these types of brain injury to seek compensation if their injury was as a result of the negligence, wrongdoing, or inaction of another. Our brain injury lawyers are experienced and aggressive injury and death attorneys with a mission to promote a safer America overall. We have handled brain injuries on both the local and national level and have a proven track record of success in handling such cases.

Anoxia and Hypoxia

Anoxia is an injury to the brain due to lack of oxygen, while low oxygen to the brain is known as hypoxia. Short-term symptoms of hypoxic and/or anoxic brain injury can range from dizziness or concentration problems while long-term problems can permanently damage vision, speech and memory.

Consuming a third of the energy in the human body, the brain is very sensitive to lack of oxygen and nutrients and some brain cells start dying less than five minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, brain hypoxia can rapidly cause severe brain damage or death. If the brain is deprived of oxygen even for a shorter time it can cause severe injury, including speech and memory loss.

Cerebral hypoxia occurs when there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function and cerebral hypoxia affects the cerebral hemispheres– the largest parts of the brain.

Anoxia can be caused by drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attack, to name a few.  Anoxia primarily affects the grey matter of the brain, which is on the outside of the brain, over the white matter. Damage may show on an MRI as blurring of the division between a grey and white matter, which is generally considered a poor outcome.

Brain injury is also classified as Inborn Brain Injury and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). ABI’s that are not traumatic are those caused by loss of oxygen to the brain (anoxia or hypoxia), strokes, infections, and medical errors.

Inborn Brain Injury includes injuries that occur before birth, including genetic brain disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, and neurological damage from drug abuse, perinatal illness or perinatal hypoxia/anoxia.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is any type of damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative. Causes of ABI include external forces applied to the head and or neck (TBI), anoxic/hypoxic injury (cardiac arrest, carbon monoxide poisoning, airway obstruction, hemorrhage, drowning), intracranial surgery, infectious diseases, seizure disorders, toxic exposure (substance abuse, ingestion of lead, inhalation of volatile agents), aneurysms, and vascular obstruction (stroke).

There are other forms of ABI and effects are often very similar to those of traumatic brain injury, but there are key differences that make treating and coping with certain acquired brain injuries quite different.

If you’ve been impacted by a minor or severe brain injury of any kind, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today. We will investigate the details of the injury and handle your case with compassion. Contact us today and experience The Killino Firm Difference.

Measure of Brain Injury Severity

TBI, also known as acquired brain injury, head injury, or brain injury has traditionally classified the severity of the injury as “mild”, “moderate”, or “severe” by the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)– the most common scoring system to describe a person’s level of consciousness following a TBI. The scoring is based on best motor response, best verbal response, and eye opening (eg, eyes open to pain, open to command).

But the GCS was invented in 1974 and using these terms has led to considerable confusion in assessing a patient’s long-term outcome. (An editorial published in the Department of Emergency Medicine outlines its problems and inaccuracies.) The after-effects of brain injury are numerous and diverse, regardless of classification.  Research has now shown there is nothing “mild” about a mild TBI (MTBI) and it is now known that all types of brain injury can potentially be a chronic disease with long-term consequences.

Another measure of severity is the duration of loss of consciousness.

  • Mild: loss of consciousness [LOC] for 30 minutes or less
  • Moderate LOC from 30 minutes to 6 hours
  • Severe LOC for more than six hours

Mild TBIs are caused by a blow to the head or violent shaking that can result in temporary brain damage and impairment of cognitive ability. Repeated mild TBI can potentially cause long-term cognitive issues. The “mild” definition is misleading because mild TBIs can have significant impacts on cognition and behavior, and recovery may vary from person to person.

A person with a moderate TBI who regains consciousness will typically have symptoms similar to those of a person with a mild TBI, but the symptoms will be much more severe. Symptoms also may persist for a significantly longer duration or be permanent.

A severe TBI is typically characterized by comatosis (coma) and permanent brain damage is often the result. Death may occur in extreme circumstances. Severe traumatic brain injuries can result from blunt trauma, but also can be the result of penetration of the skull from external objects.

Infection, known as cerebral infection, causes the brain to swell and create pressure. Sudden and chronic infection can often lead to permanent brain damage. Encephalitis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain, most often due to viral infections. Encephalitis can cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or severe headache, along with confused thinking, seizures, or problems with senses or movement.

Contusion is more localized than concussion; it is a bruise or superficial injury to the outside of the brain that happens when it comes in contact with the inner surface of the skull. Seen most commonly in vehicle accidents, contusions can be life-threatening

Concussion is basically the equivalent of a mild TBI, like a sprain or broken bone that can affect various regions of the brain, and usually caused by a blow to the head. Contact sports and violent shaking of the head and upper body can also cause concussion, and most victims do not lose consciousness. Fortunately, most people with concussion fully recover.

Other Types of Brain Injury include brain tumor, cerebral aneurysm, epilepsy and seizures, and stroke.

Head injuries may be either closed or open. A closed head injury is any injury that doesn’t break your skull. An open (penetrating) head injury is one in which something breaks your scalp and skull and enters your brain. Head injuries are also classified as the following:

  • Primary injury: Induced by mechanical force and occurs at the moment of injury; the 2 main mechanisms that cause primary injury are contact (eg, an object striking the head or the brain striking the inside of the skull) and acceleration-deceleration
  • Secondary injury: Not mechanically induced; it may be delayed from the moment of impact, and it may superimpose injury on a brain already affected by a mechanical injury

Focal and diffuse injuries are commonly found together and defined as follows:

  • Focal injury includes scalp injury, skull fracture, and surface contusions; generally caused by contact
  • Diffuse injury includes diffuse axonal injury (DAI), hypoxic-ischemic damage, meningitis, and vascular injury; usually caused by acceleration-deceleration forces

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury and you are seeking a caring and committed attorney with the knowledge, skills and experience to successfully handle your case, contact the Killino Firm today. An experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer helps injured persons and their families seek and recover compensation for their losses and will be able to take the case to trial if necessary.