What is a Secondary Brain Injury?

April 17, 2021

Brain injuries can be devastating for victims. Additionally, family members of brain injury victims often undergo extensive life changes that could cost a significant amount of money. However, most people do not realize that there are a few types of brain injuries that can occur. We often hear brain injuries referred to as either “primary” or “secondary.”

Understanding Secondary Brain Injuries

In order to properly understand secondary brain injuries, we have to acknowledge that this is not the same thing as a primary brain injury. Primary brain injuries occur as a result of the processes caused by an initial trauma to the brain or head. For example, if a person strikes their head on the windshield during a car accident, this is an example of a primary brain injury.

Secondary brain injuries can occur in the hours or even days following a primary brain injury. Secondary brain injuries are often the leading cause of brain damage or death that began with a primary brain injury.

Most people do understand that trauma inside the brain can worsen over time. It is not uncommon for a person who sustains a traumatic brain injury to not show any improvement at all after the initial incident occurs. This is usually the result of a secondary brain injury, which is the mechanisms that occur in the brain that damage neurons that were not damaged during the primary injury.

There are various causes of secondary brain injuries that occur as a result of a primary injury, including the following:

  • Ischemia (insufficient blood flow)
  • Cerebral hypoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain)
  • Intracranial pressure (pressure inside the skull)
  • Secondary brain injuries can also occur independently of a primary brain injury. For example, we also know that secondary brain injuries are caused by the following:
  • High levels of carbon dioxide in the blood (hypercapnia)
  • Excessive acidic blood
  • Abscesses on the brain
  • Brain tumors
  • Meningitis
  • Neurotransmitter release alteration

Can Secondary Brain Injuries be Prevented?

Doctors and surgeons are more likely to be able to prevent secondary brain injuries than they are primary brain injuries. Preventing primary brain injuries is not something that doctors can do because they are usually not present when a primary trauma occurs. However, doctors are well aware that secondary brain injuries can occur as a result of a primary brain injury, and they can take steps to intervene medically to prevent this from occurring. This can include initiating various types of drug or oxygen therapy or even performing surgeries.
The majority of the care surrounding brain injury victims actually involves treating and preventing secondary brain injuries.

Speak to an Attorney

If you or somebody you love has sustained a brain injury caused by the careless with negligent actions of somebody else, please speak to a skilled Martinsburg traumatic brain injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can use their resources and legal expertise to fully investigate these claims and help properly determine liability. The goal of an attorney will be to help victims secure coverage of their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering losses, and more.


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