Closed Head Injury

(Traumatic Brain Injury; Head Trauma)

Definition

A closed head injury is trauma to the head that does not cause a break in the skull. Though the skull is intact, the brain and soft tissue can be damaged by violent movement of the brain in the skull. This can lead to bleeding and swelling inside the skull. This type of injury is often minor but can lead to a traumatic brain injury which can cause a range of symptoms. Brain injury may be caused by the initial trauma or secondary injury. Secondary injury is caused by bleeding and swelling that is severe enough to increase the pressure on the brain. This pressure can lead to secondary damage and symptoms which may take hours to days to develop.

Causes

Closed head injuries are caused by a blow to the head or severe jerking motions of the head, neck or body. The most common traumas associated with head injuries include:
  • Accidents (such as automobile, work-related, sports-related)
  • Falls
  • Abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome
Head Injury
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Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a closed head injury include:
  • Advanced age—increased risk of falls
  • Younger age— increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • High-impact sports, such as boxing, basketball, baseball, or football
  • Physical abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Symptoms

Symptoms can appear right away, or in the days and weeks following the injury. Symptoms may include:
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Having trouble with memory or paying attention
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Problems speaking, communicating, or putting thoughts together
A doctor should be consulted right away if any of the following is present:
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Pupils that are larger than normal or different size pupils
  • Unexpected mood swings or behavioral changes
  • Drainage of blood or clear fluids from nose or ears
  • Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
If you have been evaluated for a closed head injury and your symptoms are getting worse, get medical help right away.

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