Children frequently suffer brain injury in conjunction with other injuries that occur in car accidents, falls, assaults and other types of trauma, according to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Brain damage in children who sustain head injuries can be subtle and therefore may go undiagnosed. This recent NEJM article should alert ER doctors to look carefully for signs of brain damage in children who sustain traumatic injury.
The NEJM article reported that about 65% of kids who suffer severe head injuries and undergo a head CT scan have traumatic brain injuries. With mild head trauma, 5% of pediatric patients had concurrent brain injury, while 27% with moderate head trauma suffered a brain injury. These results were based on review of CT images from 43,000 emergency room visits for pediatric head trauma.
The most common cause of injury among young children was falls, while teens were more likely to sustain blunt head trauma from assaults, sports injuries and car crashes. The brain injuries were marked by bleeding or bruising on the CT scan. About half had more than one kind of brain injury seen on imaging.
As an attorney who has represented many clients who have sustained severe brain injuries, I am encouraged to see attention brought to these commonplace injuries. Often, brain injuries are missed by emergency personnel. When this occurs, the defense always argues that no brain injury was present at the time of the initial trauma, insinuating that the injury victim is faking it or suffered an injury after the accident. Further, subsequent MRI imaging often does not reveal the damage that a CT scan, taken nearer to the time of the injury, will reveal.
In those circumstances, we may have to employ the services of a pediatric neuropsychologist, a neurologist or a physiatrist to use clinical information to diagnose the brain injury. Obviously, imaging that reveals a brain bleed or contusion is more compelling evidence. Because the long-term damages from brain injury can be huge, we would like to have the best evidence possible when pursuing such a claim.