A head injury can be considered mild, moderate or severe. But what should you do in each case? Dr Lim Jia Xu, Senior Resident from the Department of Neurosurgery at National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), shares tips.
What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
"Traumatic brain injury (TBI), commonly known as a
head injury, affects both the young and the elderly. In young adults, it usually involves a road traffic accident or a fall from height. Head injuries are also a leading cause of death and disability for this group," shared Dr Lim Jia Xu, Senior Resident from the
Department of Neurosurgery at
National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the
"For seniors, falls are the main cause of head injuries," he added.
Mild head injury vs moderate and severe head injuries
Mild TBI: Can cause
headaches, nausea, giddiness, poor focus, and irritability. This is sometimes known as post-concussion syndrome, and it usually lasts a few days. In rare cases, it may persist between six and 12 months — these require specialist review.
Moderate or severe TBI: Needs close monitoring in a Neuroscience Intensive Care or High Dependency Unit so that any deterioration can be detected early. Brain surgery may be needed. Despite advances in care, death rates remain significant, especially among the elderly. Survivors often require months of rehabilitation to give them the best chance of recovery.
What to do after a head injury
1. Go to the nearest Emergency Department (ED) if the person is at high risk of brain injury
Example of a high-risk person is the elderly (aged 65 and above)
Another example of a high-risk individual is a person taking blood thinner medication; e.g. aspirin, clopidogrel, warfarin, rivaroxaban
Go to the ED if the injury is caused by a road traffic accident, fall from height, or assault
Go to the ED if the injured person shows signs of serious brain injury such as:
Drowsiness, recurrent vomiting episodes
Numbness or weakness in the limbs, or difficulty walking or talking
Change in behaviour
Open wounds that are bleeding
Blood or fluid coming out of the nose or ears
2. At the Emergency Department (ED), inform the doctor / nurse
3. When discharged from the Emergency Department (ED)
For 24 hours after the injury:
Do not let the injured person be left alone, drink alcohol, or take medications that can cause sleepiness
Monitor the person regularly for signs of brain injury as mentioned above
For the next days to weeks:
Why are seniors at higher risk of head injuries and complications? Click
here to find out.
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