What Are the Causes and Effects of Brain Stem Injuries?
Motorcycle and car accidents are serious and can lead to various types of head trauma. Brain stem injuries are particularly problematic as they can affect your quality of life and ability to work. In some cases, they can even result in death.
If someone was responsible for an accident that caused you or a loved one to suffer a brainstem injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation. This can help cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
About the Brain Stem
As you may or may not know, the brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. This is essential for critical bodily functions, including:
- Heart regulation
- Blood circulation
- Heat regulation
- Swallowing, and
Note that the brain stem also acts as a segue to send communication from your body to the brain. A signal that you need rest or water, for example, must travel through the brain stem. Due to its critical function, the body can’t survive without this part of the brain working.
Now, there are three regions of the brain stem that work together to perform its functions:
The Pons: upper portion of the stem that assists with respiration, swallowing, hearing, equilibrium, taste, eye movement, facial expressions, posture, and bladder control.
The Midbrain: associated with vision, hearing, motor control, sleep cycles, and temperature regulation.
The Medulla Oblongata: lower half of the stem that regulates breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory functions.
Injuries to the Brain Stem
With that in mind, injuries to the brain stem can happen in a number of ways. Examples include trauma that leads to laceration of the spinal cord, ligaments to separate from the spinal column, hemorrhaging (broken blood vessel), and/or hyperextension of the vertebrae.
As mentioned, brain stem injuries are often the result of car and motorcycle collisions. However, it has been shown that wearing seatbelts in automobiles and helmets on bikes can help prevent this type of trauma. Other causes of brain stem injuries that we commonly see are due to falls. An example would be a construction worker plunging from scaffolding.
Keep in mind that these types of injuries can also lead to a person suffering what is known as a brain stem stroke. This is the result of the blood supply to the brain being interrupted. However, unlike automobile accidents or falls, which involve some type of force or impact, brain stem strokes can happen to anyone at any time.
However, it’s important to note that certain lifestyle factors and health conditions can increase your risk of suffering a brain stem stroke. These include having a history of smoking, drug use, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
As you can see, because of how vital the brain stem is to proper functioning, even minor injuries can have serious consequences. For that reason, you should always seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident, even if you believe that your injuries are not severe.
Symptoms of Brain-Stem Injury
Now, if you’ve been in an accident, you may be curious about the signs and symptoms of brain stem trauma. This injury has been known to cause one or more of the following:
- Repetitive jerky eye movements
- Loss of sense of smell
- Irregular breathing
- Fixation of pupils to light, or
- Loss of certain reflexes.
Bear in mind that major brain stem injuries can cause both comas and what is known as locked-in syndrome. Locked-in syndrome results in the entire body becoming paralyzed, except for the eye muscles.
In order to conclusively determine whether or not you have a brain stem injury, you must see a medical professional. The provider will likely conduct an imaging test, such as an MRI scan, CT scan, or angiogram to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Brain-Stem Injury
Functioning with a brain stem injury poses a number of physical, mental, and emotional challenges for a person. In cases where the victim suffered a brain stem stroke, the first step is to remove the blood clot and/or stop the bleeding.
Other types of brain stem injuries may require surgery by a neurosurgeon. Recovery from these procedures can take a long time, and often require extended therapy and rehabilitation including:
- Physical therapy – to gain back important motor skills
- Speech therapy – to help relearn to speak and swallow, and
- Psychological counseling – to help adjust to potentially severe disabilities.
If you’ve suffered an injury to your brain stem because you were involved in an accident, do not hesitate to seek the advice of a local personal injury lawyer.