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The Causes of Brain Herniation

Why Does Brain Herniation Occur?

One of the most dangerous complications of a traumatic brain injury is brain herniation. This is a deadly side effect that occurs for one of two reasons. These include:

  • Increased intracranial pressure – When the pressure inside the skull rises to a dangerous level.
  • Mass effect – When there is a mass lesion that builds inside the skull, physically pushing the brain to the side.

These problems could potentially force brain tissue to compress against the skull or exit the skull through one of its orifices. This leads to potentially catastrophic brain damage. Some of the signs and symptoms of a brain herniation include:

  • Abnormal posturing of the body, known as either decorticate or decerebrate posturing
  • Altered mental status marked by disorientation and confusion
  • A lower Glasgow Coma Scale Score
  • Pupils that do not react to light
  • Severe, intractable vomiting

There are several reasons why someone might suffer a brain herniation, particularly after a traumatic brain injury. It is essential to know about these reasons so that people can take proper precautions against cerebral herniation.

Brain Herniation Can Occur After a Hematoma

A brain hematoma is one of the most common reasons why someone might suffer a brain herniation. Hematoma is a collection of blood that pools in a specific location following an injury. Some of the places that a hematoma might form include:

  • The abdomen
  • The arm or leg
  • The skull

If someone suffers a blow to the head, he or she might develop a brain hematoma. Some of the types of brain hematomas include:

  • Acute subdural hematomas
  • Epidural hematomas
  • Chronic subdural hematomas

As blood builds inside the skull, it will force the brain tissue to shift. This is called mass effect. If the mass effect continues to grow, and the brain continues to bleed, the brain will start to move. If the brain shifts too far, a brain herniation will take place. As the brain tissue shifts across the skull, nerves will become damaged in the process. This nerve damage is often permanent.

Watch YouTube Video: Brain Herniation. This animated video provides an overview of brain herniation, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

A Stroke Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

Another common cause of brain herniation is a stroke. A stroke occurs when one or more of the blood vessels inside the brain is either bleeding or obstructed. This cuts off blood flow to a part of the brain, depriving nerves of oxygen and nutrients. This will quickly lead to cell death. A stroke can occur following a TBI. Some of the common causes of TBIs include:

  • A slip and fall injury that could happen on a wet floor or an icy sidewalk
  • An auto accident or a motorcycle collision
  • Contact sports such as football and soccer
  • A physical assault

A traumatic brain injury could cause two different types of strokes. These are:

  • Hemorrhagic: When one of the major blood vessels in the brain starts to bleed. This blood loss deprives the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Ischemic: When an obstruction blocks one or more of the brain’s blood vessels.

Strokes lead to severe brain damage, which could cause cell necrosis. In response to this necrosis, the body will rush cells and fluid to the site of the stroke to repair the damage. This could lead to a rise in increased intracranial pressure (ICP) or the development of mass effect, leading to a brain herniation.

Cerebral Edema Following a Head Injury

Cerebral edema can develop following a blow to the head. Edema is the term used to describe swelling. When a part of the body is injured, that body part starts to swell. This is a part of the inflammatory process.

Cerebral edema is dangerous because it leads to a rapid rise in ICP. As the brain swells, the tissue needs to travel somewhere. When it runs out of space in the skull, brain herniation occurs. To prevent this, people might need emergency brain surgery.

San Francisco Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a traumatic brain injury lawyer in San Francisco. A brain herniation is a potentially deadly side effect or complication that might develop after a traumatic brain injury. Should a family member suffer herniation of the brain after a severe accident, call me at (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

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