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Brain Injury Series Part 2: The Ways a Brain Can Be Injured

This is the second of a series of blogs on Winning Strategies for Handling a Mild to Severe Brain Injury Case.

We first discussed the anatomy of the brain, including the structure of neurons.  Here we will discuss the ways that our brain can be injured and the implications that flow from the various kinds of injuries.

The brain is very delicate and is considered to be the consistency similar to that of gelatin.  If a brain is suddenly jolted or banged or twisted, it will cause a traumatic impact that ripples through the entire brain and can cause complications.  The brain is made up of billions of neurons that can be damaged by trauma to a person’s head.

Some of the ways damage can occur to a human’s brain is as follows:

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or Concussion

The term mild traumatic brain injury is used interchangeably with the term concussion.  A concussion is caused by a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the function of the brain.  Unlike more severe traumatic brain injuries, the disturbance of brain function from a concussion is caused more by dysfunction of brain metabolism rather than by structural damage.  The current understanding of the neuropathophysiology of a mild TBI involves a paradigm shift away from a focus on anatomic damage to an emphasis on neuronal dysfunction involving a complex cascade of ionic, metabolic and physiologic events.  After an impact causing a concussion, there is an increase in glucose metabolism, and then a subsequent reduced metabolic state.  These events interfere with the neuronal function in the brain and may lead to cell death after the injury.

Diffuse Axonal Shear

In a diffuse axonal shear injury many of the nerve cell pathways (axons) may be torn apart or stretched. This can cause a loss of connection between brain cells and can lead to a breakdown of overall communication among neurons in the brain. Information processing may be disrupted.  A diagram demonstrating the process of axonal shear appears below:

Coup – Contre-Coup

A coup contre-coup injury to the brain occurs when there is a sudden impact to the head, which causes the brain to first slam into one side of the skull wall, then bounce off that wall and slam into the wall on the opposite side of the skull.  Continue reading