Each year, nearly three million people are seen in emergency departments for traumatic brain injury in the United States. Many more people likely sustain these injuries without going to the emergency room. Brain injuries range in severity from mild concussions to injuries that cause permanent disability and death. A diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is one form of serious traumatic brain injury that is often caused by accidents. We take a look at this complex injury and discuss your options for recovery.
What Is a Diffuse Axonal Injury?
When head trauma occurs, the brain can be injured in a variety of ways. When the head is impacted in a particular spot, the brain tissue below can be bruised or punctured. A diffuse axonal injury, however, can occur even with there is no impact to the head and affects a larger area of brain tissue. When the head is forced back and forth rapidly, the brain is shaken up inside the skull, and the long connecting nerve fibers surrounding the brain, called axons, can be sheared. The damage is widespread, or diffuse, and stops the nerve cells from communicating with one another.
Symptoms of a Diffuse Axonal Injury
One of the most common traumatic brain injuries, a DAI can have devastating results. The immediate effect of a serious DAI is usually loss of consciousness that typically lasts for six hours or more, and the most common outcome is a coma. In DAIs where fewer axons are damaged, the victim may remain conscious—or only be unconscious for a short period of time—and may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping longer than usual
- Dizziness or loss of balance
While these symptoms can indicate a diffuse axonal injury, they are also signs of other kinds of traumatic brain injury, so additional assessment will be required to determine the exact type of brain injury. Tissue damage may be visible on an MRI or CT scan.
Long-Term Effects of a DAI
For those who survive a diffuse axonal brain injury, there could be a long road ahead to recovery. He or she could experience long-term or permanent impairments that are similar to other traumatic brain injuries, including the following:
People with severe DAI may experience difficulty processing information, expressing thoughts, and making decisions. They may suffer memory loss and struggle to understand abstract concepts.
Depending on the areas of the brain that were damaged, the patient may lose some level of motor control and may experience tremors, sleep disorders, seizures, and extreme fatigue. In some cases, partial or complete paralysis may result.
Behavioral & emotional changes
Brain injuries can result in complete changes in personality. A person with brain damage may struggle with depression, irritability, increased aggressiveness, and impatience.
Because there is no way to surgically repair a DAI, the victim’s only hope of recovery is to undergo rehabilitation and various forms of therapy to regain as much brain function as possible. Therapy will also help brain injury victims learn alternative ways to accomplish the tasks they can no longer do the way they once did.
Damages When a Negligent Party Is to Blame
Traumatic brain injuries, including diffuse axonal injuries, are caused by physical trauma. Violent attacks, child abuse, and sports injuries are a few ways people suffer head trauma, but the most common causes of TBI are falls and motor vehicle crashes. If your DAI was caused by one of the following, you might have a claim for damages against the person or business responsible for causing the accident:
- Car, truck, or motorcycle crash
- Fall from a height on a job site
- Slip and fall in a store, restaurant, or movie theater
- Fall on an unsafe staircase in a parking garage
- Falling merchandise in a warehouse store
- Workplace forklift of crushing accident
If you can prove negligence as the cause of your accident, you may be able to recover damages including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Determining the extent of your losses is an important part of your personal injury legal claim, but you will need the help of an experienced attorney.