Types of brain injuries caused by medical malpractice

When we are sick or injured we put a tremendous amount of faith in the Doctors, Nurses and medical personnel treating us. In the unfortunate event that they end up causing further harm due to negligence or insufficient skills, it can leave a whole family devastated. 

A Traumatic brain injury is a form of acquired brain injury which occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Injuries to the brain can also occur when the brain does not get enough oxygen such as during a stroke or as a result of illness.

Brain injuries caused by medical malpractice can be heartbreaking especially if there is a baby or a young child involved. No matter what the circumstances are, anything involving a brain injury caused by the negligence of a medical practitioner is nothing less than tragic. 

The different types of medical malpractice that can result in brain injuries include:

  • Surgical mistakes
  • Misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis
  • Anoxia (a lack of oxygen)
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Birth trauma that harms newborn babies
  • Tissue or blood infections, including septicemia
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Medication errors, such as wrong medicine or dosage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Abuse (a common cause of injury in nursing homes and assisted living facilities)
  • Intubation negligence
  • Falls resulting in head trauma (often in nursing homes).

Surgical mistakes that can result in brain damage can include mistakes in anesthesia or failing to intubate the patient correctly. However, they can also be caused by the surgeon accidentally cutting a blood supply during surgery. If the patient is not supplied the correct amount of oxygen throughout and after the surgery, then this can cause a brain injury due to lack of oxygen supplied to the brain. 

What happens when there is lack of oxygen in the brain?

Brain cells are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Some brain cells start dying less than 5 minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, brain hypoxia can rapidly cause severe brain damage or death.

What Is a Hypoxic Brain Injury

Hypoxic brain injuries are brain injuries that form due to a restriction on the oxygen being supplied to the brain. The restricted flow of oxygen causes the gradual death and impairment of brain cells.

A hypoxic brain injury, also known as hypoxic-ischemic brain injury or hypoxia-ischemia, occurs when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen (hypoxia) or sufficient blood flow (ischemia). This lack of oxygen and nutrients can result in damage to brain cells, leading to a range of neurological deficits or even death if severe and prolonged.

Hypoxic brain injuries can be caused by various factors, including:

Cardiac Arrest: When the heart stops beating or doesn’t pump effectively, blood circulation to the brain is interrupted, leading to hypoxia and potential brain damage.

Respiratory Failure: Conditions such as drowning, choking, suffocation, or severe asthma attacks can restrict the supply of oxygen to the brain, causing hypoxia.

Stroke: Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot blocks an artery supplying the brain, reducing oxygen delivery. Hemorrhagic strokes involve bleeding in the brain, which can lead to reduced oxygen levels.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Inhaling carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, can displace oxygen in the bloodstream, leading to hypoxia.

Drug Overdose: Some drugs, especially opioids and sedatives, can depress the respiratory system, causing a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood.

The severity of a hypoxic brain injury can vary depending on the duration and extent of oxygen deprivation. Mild cases may result in temporary symptoms, while severe cases can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or death. Common consequences of hypoxic brain injury include cognitive impairments, motor deficits, memory problems, and changes in personality or behavior.

Recovery from hypoxic brain injuries often relies on accurate medical diagnosis and fast responses. Every second counts when it comes to lack of oxygen to the brain. 

If someone you love did not receive fast and appropriate treatment after a hypoxic brain injury and has resulted in long term disability then you may wish to consider a claim for medical malpractice. 

Lack of oxygen causing brain injury can also be the case with birth trauma. If the baby and mother are not monitored and treated correctly during labor, then the baby can experience distress and not get enough oxygen to their brain resulting in brain damage caused by a birth injury. In this case, the baby’s heart rate will normally decrease during labor which is monitored by the fetal monitoring devices. Not all births require ongoing monitoring. However, in the case of an epidural being administered or an induction of labor, then fetal monitoring is often recommended due to a higher risk of complications. 

Failing to detect a change in a baby’s heart rate can have devastating effects including long term brain damage, blindness, deafness or Cerebral Palsy. 

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It is the most common motor disability in childhood and can occur during pregnancy or birth. Symptoms include exaggerated reflexes, floppy or rigid limbs and involuntary motions. These appear by early childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.

Birth complications that can lead to Cerebral Palsy include detachment of the placenta, uterine rupture, or problems with the umbilical cord during birth. These events can disrupt oxygen supply to the baby and result in CP.

The use of birth intervention techniques such as forceps or vacuums can also cause brain injuries to the baby if used incorrectly. 

If a tissue or blood infection is not correctly diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, this can lead to long term brain damage for the patient. Unfortunately, when Doctors are treating too many patients or not experienced with a particular ailment, then they may miss key symptoms leading to an incorrect or misdiagnosis. In a similar way with stroke patients, if the correct treatment is not administered quickly then the oxygen supply will be restricted for longer. This can result in more brain cells dying than is necessary. 

Symptoms of stroke include trouble walking, speaking and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg.

The speed in which medical treatment is delivered is essential in preventing long term brain damage after a stroke.

Another all too common cause of brain injuries is abuse, usually of elderly people or disabled people who need caregivers. Blows to the head or falls which involve hitting the head can be types of elder abuse.

What are the signs Of a Brain Injury

human brain

Brain injuries have symptoms that are often readily recognizable. Be on the lookout for the following if you believe your loved one is being mistreated in care:

  • Cognitive impairment, including lack of concentration or focus
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired hearing
  • Speech difficulties
  • Loss of taste
  • Sensory loss, especially in arms and legs
  • Loss of eye movement
  • Lacerations, bruises or bumps on the head
  • Emotional and mood problems
  • Loss of bodily function, including paralysis
  • Change in personality
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Disorientation and loss of balance
  • Coma
  • Dizziness or seizures.
  • Some of the signs are immediately easy to spot, while others may be more subtle or arise weeks or months after medical treatment.  

What are the three levels of brain injury

Brain injuries are often classified into three primary levels or categories based on their severity and the extent of damage. These levels help medical professionals and researchers communicate about the injury’s impact and potential outcomes. The three levels of brain injury are:

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI):

Also known as a concussion, mTBI is the least severe of the three levels.

Symptoms may include a brief loss of consciousness (if any), confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea, memory problems, and changes in mood or behavior.

Imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs may appear normal.

Recovery is usually rapid, with most individuals experiencing improvements within days to weeks.

Some individuals may have persistent symptoms, known as post-concussion syndrome, which can last for months but typically resolve over time.

Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury:

Moderate TBIs involve more significant damage to brain tissue than mild TBIs.

Symptoms can range from confusion and memory difficulties to prolonged loss of consciousness (minutes to hours).

Imaging may show visible abnormalities or lesions in the brain.

Recovery is variable and may include a period of rehabilitation to address physical, cognitive, and emotional deficits.

Long-term effects can vary widely, depending on the extent and location of the brain damage.

Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (sTBI):

Severe TBIs are the most critical and involve extensive damage to the brain.

Symptoms can include a prolonged loss of consciousness (hours to weeks), severe cognitive impairments, motor deficits, and changes in personality or behavior.

Imaging studies often reveal significant structural damage to the brain.

Recovery from a severe TBI can be slow and challenging, and some individuals may require lifelong care and rehabilitation.

The long-term prognosis can be uncertain, with outcomes ranging from profound disability to significant recovery, depending on factors such as the location, extent of injury, and the effectiveness of medical intervention.

It’s important to note that the classification of a brain injury as mild, moderate, or severe is based on the initial assessment of the injury’s severity. The actual outcomes and long-term effects of a brain injury can be influenced by various factors, including the individual’s age, overall health, access to medical care, and the effectiveness of rehabilitation and support systems. As such, the classification may change as more information becomes available during the recovery process.

What Should You Do If Medical Malpractice Causes A Brain Injury?

If you believe your loved one has suffered a brain injury at the hands of a doctor, nurse or hospital, it’s important to take immediate steps, including:

  1. Seek medical attention right away with a different doctor or medical facility to prevent further injury.
  2. Hire a skilled and experienced brain injury lawyer to represent you and prevent you from saying or doing things that may harm the success of a lawsuit in the future.
  3. Gather all medical paperwork, test results, X-rays, MRIs, lab results and other documentation that proves your loved one’s injuries.

What can you claim for a brain injury?

Lawsuits for brain injuries caused by medical malpractice can claim damages in the following areas:

  • Medical Costs: The cost of hospital bills, as well as the cost of lifelong care, which is necessary in many head-injury cases.
  • Pain and Suffering: Not only the physical pain and suffering, but the emotional impact of having to deal with a life-changing injury.
  • Lost Income: A brain injury can cause the individual to miss work temporarily or leave the person permanently unable to work.

* The articles provided on the Stalwart Law website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as professional legal advice or as a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney.  

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