An acute brain injury is a life-threatening medical emergency caused by sudden damage to the brain. This type of brain injury typically occurs due to traumatic situations such as automobile accidents or physical violence. Initial treatment for an acute brain injury is aimed at saving the life of the patient. Brain swelling or bleeding are closely monitored by the medical team, and emergency surgery is often necessary in order to reduce this type of pressure on the brain. Immediate medical attention is urgent, as brain cells do not have the ability to heal themselves once they have been damaged.
Any sudden traumatic damage involving the head can potentially lead to an acute brain injury. Automobile accidents and cases of child abuse are among the leading causes of this type of brain injury. In some cases, the brain begins to bleed, or cerebrospinal fluid begins to leak and accumulate between the brain and the skull. If left untreated, this accumulation of fluid can cause pressure on the brain, and the brain may begin to swell, pressing up against the skull. This pressure can interrupt blood flow to portions of the brain, causing some of the brain cells to become damaged.
The first step in treating an acute brain injury is to save the life of the patient. The amount of brain swelling or bleeding will be monitored, and surgery may be necessary. Brain surgery may involve draining excess fluid from the brain or removing blood clots. In some cases, a small hole may need to be drilled into the skull to relieve pressure.
Fluids are often restricted for a time in patients who have suffered an acute brain injury. This is done in an attempt to prevent further swelling and damage to the sensitive tissues of the brain. Medications may be given to prevent seizures or to decrease the amount of fluid in the body. Vital signs such as blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored closely.
Once the emergency is over, many patients will need continuing treatment for the acute brain injury. Depending on the severity of the injury and the portions of the brain affected, the patient may need to relearn basic skills such as walking, talking, or using the restroom. Before the patient leaves the hospital, a medical team will be put together so that supportive care can continue once the patient no longer requires constant monitoring.