Most of us know that protecting your head in dangerous situations is priority number one, and while sometimes we can manage to do that – such as wearing helmets when bicycling or playing sports – we are not always in a position to protect ourselves at all. A head injury can happen almost anywhere, but car accidents are the major contributor to head injuries.
While some head injuries can be treated at home, a diffuse axonal brain injury is not one of them. This is a severe injury that requires immediate medical attention.
Diffuse axonal brain injury and traumatic brain injury
A diffuse axonal brain injury (DAI) is a severe form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) characterized by widespread damage to the brain’s nerve fibers, known as axons. It typically occurs when the brain is subjected to rapid stop and go forces, often seen in car accidents or severe falls. DAI can lead to a range of neurological and cognitive deficits because it affects multiple areas of the brain. The injury disrupts the communication between brain cells, resulting in a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms, which can be both immediate and long-lasting. Treatment and recovery from DAI can be challenging, and it often requires extensive rehabilitation and medical care.
How common are DAIs?
According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, DAI is not uncommon:
. . . roughly 10% of all patients with TBI admitted to the hospital will have some degree of DAI. Of the patients with DIA, it is estimated that roughly 25% will result in death. This statistic may be underestimated as patients with subdural hematomas, epidural hematomas, and other forms of TBI will not carry a true diagnosis of DAI. Postmortem studies have shown that patients with severe TBI have a significant incidence of diffuse axonal injury.
The Brain Injury Association of America claims that the number of patients suffering from a TBI and also acquiring DAI is more than the previously noted10%, stating that “past studies show that 40% to 50% of traumatic brain injuries requiring hospital admission are diffuse axonal injury.”
Either way, DAI is not a rare occurrence, and if you should suffer a head injury, especially when you are in a car accident, you should seek medical attention immediately to rule out unknown brain trauma that you might have suffered.
What are the symptoms of a DAI?
DAI is typically diagnosed clinically. Doctors often consider diffuse axonal brain injury when a patient has a low score on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) for an extended period (usually over six hours). GCS is a tool used to evaluate a person’s level of consciousness and neurological functioning after a head injury or other medical emergencies. It assigns a score based on a person’s ability to open their eyes, respond to verbal commands, and move purposefully, with a lower score indicating more severe impairment of consciousness.
The severity of DAI determines how patients present. For example, mild DAI can look like a concussion, with symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Severe DAI can result in loss of consciousness and a persistent vegetative state, with only a few patients recovering consciousness in the first year after the injury. Some patients also experience dysautonomia, which includes symptoms like fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, low blood pressure, high body temperature, abnormal muscle tone, and unusual body postures.
What types of accidents cause DAI?
Typically, it is victims of vehicle accidents that see the most head injuries, and therefore the most diffuse axonal brain injuries; however, other accidents can lead to DAIs. The most common causes of DAI include:
- Vehicle accidents. The impact of a crash can forcefully jolt the head, causing the brain to collide with the skull. Additionally, debris from the accident might penetrate the skull, leading to brain damage. Motorcyclists are the most at risk for injuries, due to their lack of protection, and accidents with commercial trucks often lead to severe injuries for the driver of the smaller vehicle.
- Recreational accidents. These injuries can stem from a range of activities, including sports-related incidents like soccer or football injuries, as well as accidents during activities such as camping, hiking, ATV riding, or bicycling.
- Workplace accidents. Certain workplace environments, particularly in industrial, construction, or agricultural settings, pose a heightened risk of brain injury for employees. Workplaces can be especially dangerous if the work environment does not follow the safety guidelines, or if you are not provided with personal protection equipment.
- Birth injuries. In cases where medical professionals are negligent during the labor and delivery process, newborn babies may sustain permanent brain injuries, including diffuse axonal injuries. These birth injuries likely warrant legal action, such as a medical malpractice lawsuit.
If your brain injury was caused in any of these instances, it is important that you talk to an experienced Mississippi brain injury lawyer. The treatment, pain, and suffering for this injury is financially, physically, and emotionally draining. An attorney can help to ensure that you do not have to pay for more than you already have.
Why is a DAI dangerous?
Now that we know what it is and what causes it, it’s time to understand what makes a diffuse axonal brain injury so dangerous. As a DAI is a severe type of brain injury, the damage it can do can be extensive.
Diffuse axonal injury is highly dangerous due to several critical factors:
- Widespread brain damage. DAI involves extensive damage to the brain’s nerve fibers (axons), which are responsible for transmitting crucial information within the brain. When these axons are disrupted, it affects communication between different parts of the brain, impairing its normal functioning.
- Severity of impairment. The severity of impairment caused by DAI can vary, but it often leads to profound neurological deficits. This can include cognitive impairments, motor dysfunction, and sensory deficits, making it challenging for individuals to perform daily activities.
- Immediate and long-term effects. DAI can result in both immediate and long-term consequences. Immediately after the injury, patients may experience loss of consciousness, confusion, and memory problems. Over time, they can develop persistent issues, such as difficulties with memory, attention, and emotional regulation.
- High risk of coma. Severe cases of diffuse axonal brain injury can lead to a coma or a persistent vegetative state, where the patient is unaware of their surroundings and unable to communicate. In such cases, the prognosis for recovery is often uncertain and can be very grim.
- Physical impairments. DAI can cause physical impairments, including muscle weakness, coordination problems, and difficulties with balance and mobility. These impairments can significantly impact a person’s ability to perform basic tasks and maintain independence.
- Emotional and psychological impact. The emotional and psychological toll of DAI is substantial. Individuals may experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges as a result of the injury.
Head injuries are nothing to overlook. One solid hit to your head can lead to a whole host of symptoms and complications that may leave you suffering for years afterward.
As someone who has suffered a severe head injury, you may find it difficult to try and take care of insurance and legal matters, two aspects of most car accidents that are complicated and deal with critically important decisions concerning your future happiness and health. That is why it is critical to have the assistance of an experienced Mississippi personal injury attorney. They can handle all the complex paperwork and proceedings so you can focus on healing.
If you suffered harm due to someone else’s negligence, you need to seek out the help of a Mississippi brain injury attorney. At Merkel & Cocke, we have a diligent team of legal professionals who know how to handle not just personal injury cases, but medical malpractice and workers’ compensation cases as well. No matter where you received your DAI, if it was caused by someone else’s actions or their negligence, we can help. To set up a free consultation, call us or fill out our contact page. We will fight to ensure that you receive the rightful restitution that you deserve. We have offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford for your convenience.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.