Closed Head Injuries

Written by Shirley Parker
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One of the things a family will discover while reading about brain injuries is that there is a fair amount of disagreement among specialists--over prognosis and treatment regimens, in particular. Another area of disagreement is in distinguishing between types of injury. For example, some resources still distinguish between closed and open head injuries, while others no longer differentiate between them.

An open head injury means the skull has been fractured, and a severe head injury can be expected upon examination. If the brain tissue is exposed--as it might be when a child has been struck by a moving vehicle--it is cause for extreme alarm and emotional trauma to the parents. Depending upon how much brain tissue is damaged, the child may be able to recover with some impairment to learning or motor ability. In this case, a metal plate may have been surgically implanted over the part of the skull that has been destroyed. As the child grows, further surgery will be needed to replace the plate.

In a closed head injury, the skull hasn't been fractured. Therefore, at least some physicians might anticipate a less severe head injury. However, this is frequently not the case, and many specialists know that very serious damage might be occurring from a closed head injury. When the brain swells from injury, it has nowhere to go, if the skull hasn't been "opened." That means the pressure from the swelling is damaging the delicate tissue of the brain. Doctors will need to alleviate the pressure, after considering the options. CT-scans of the brain, along with other examinations, aid in identifying the specific damage.

Head Injury Doesn't Equal Brain Injury

A head injury doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as a brain injury. An injury to any area of the face or even the skull doesn't automatically mean the brain has also been injured. However, any head injury can have traumatic after-effects, requiring a long series of interventions. As an example, extensive surgery may be required to repair damage to cheeks, nose, eyes, ear lobes, and the neck area.


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