When a person is involved in a motorcycle, car, or truck accident, they may hit their head, causing a diffuse axonal injury. After being diagnosed with this severe brain injury, the individual’s life will never be the same. They will need to learn how to carry out their daily obligations and duties in a different way than prior to the accident, as well as adapt to new obstacles and challenges that they may face. This can send their life into great turmoil, leading to stress, frustration, grief, and anxiety.
What is a diffuse axonal injury?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “were approximately 223,135 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019 and 69,473 TBI-related deaths in 2021.” Of these TBIs, one of the more common types is a diffuse axonal injury. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a diffuse axonal injury is a serious traumatic brain injury (TBI). These types of brain injuries result from hitting or striking your head on an object, another vehicle, or the pavement during a motor vehicle accident. If the accident also causes your brain to shake, shift, or twist, a diffuse axonal injury is likely to emerge.
A doctor will determine if you are suffering a diffuse axonal injury by looking for any tearing of your brain’s axons, which are the nerve fibers. These injuries often happen when the brain becomes injured and moves inside the bony, hard skull.
If a person is diagnosed with a diffuse axonal injury, they may have several injuries to different parts of the brain, which often leads to coma. It is difficult to pinpoint and determine the various changes in the brain occurring from this type of injury as they are often so small and microscopic. This can cause them to be missed on MRI or CT scans, which can lead to the patient’s injury becoming worse or even cause death.
Common symptoms of a diffuse axonal injury
One of the most common symptoms that indicates that a person may be suffering a diffuse axonal injury is loss of consciousness, which usually lasts for over six hours. If they regain consciousness quickly, the injury may be mild. However, there are many other symptoms that you should keep an eye out for, including:
- Feeling tired or fatigued
- Inability to sleep
- Sleeping too much
- Loss of balance
- Feeling confused
- Memory issues
- Feeling irritated
- Mood swings
The long-term damage of diffuse axonal brain injuries
If an individual is able to survive a diffuse axonal injury, they may have impaired and limited brain function, cognitive skills, and motor skills. As a result, their “social reintegration, return to productivity, and quality of life” may be compromised for the rest of their life.
Many healthcare professionals do not believe that the outlook for patients with diffuse axonal injuries is positive. The reason for this is because many of these patients can never move, speak, solve problems, or think like they did before their injury occurred. In addition, they often have permanent disabilities, long-term health issues, and even die from their injuries.
Medical News Today mentions that only a “very small number of those with severe diffuse axonal injuries regain their consciousness within the first year after the injury.” This is very important to be aware of, as it shows how serious these types of injuries are as well as how likely people are to ever gain consciousness or get their life back on track.
Is there a treatment plan for individuals with diffuse axonal injuries?
If a patient with a diffuse axonal injury regains consciousness within a decent time frame (usually one year) after the accident, their healthcare provider will most likely start them on a specific medical treatment plan to get them on the path of recovery. However, it is extremely important to understand that the type of treatment plan that the doctor may recommend is based on the extent of brain damage and other disabilities that the individual possesses. Most of the treatment plans consist of the following:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy helps patients with diffuse axonal injuries learn how to control their movements and move their limbs and body parts again. They will most likely start doing different exercises that encourage them to use their affected limbs.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy helps patients with these injuries learn how to gain their independence back. This means that they will learn how to dress themselves, go to the restroom, cook, and do other necessary obligations around their home and at work. If they are paralyzed or confined to a wheelchair, the occupational therapist will teach them how to carry out their daily duties with new tools and techniques.
- Speech therapy: Many people who are diagnosed with a diffuse axonal injury have trouble eating, swallowing, and speaking. They must learn how to communicate and speak again. Speech therapy will require them to participate in a variety of different activities and exercises that will strengthen their oral muscles and improve their speaking skills.
- Counseling or psychological therapy: Suffering from this type of injury can lead to emotional and mental trauma for many years to come. If the individual also has disabilities that prevent them from living how they once did, this can lead to depression. Therefore, it is extremely important that counseling or psychological therapy is a part of a patient’s medical treatment plan. This can help them get their feelings out to a professional as well as learn how to cope and adapt to their new life.
If you or a loved one suffers a diffuse axonal injury because of another individual driver’s negligence, Cunningham & Mears will work to protect your rights and get the justice you deserve. Our Oklahoma City car accident attorneys have the experience, skills, and training to ensure that your voice is heard and that you receive fair compensation for your losses.
Our team assists clients with these types of injuries across Oklahoma City, and we are happy to assist you and your family as well. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More