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• Includes injury to the scalp, skull, or brain

Primary Injury – The initial damage to the brain that results from traumatic
events. (Contusions, lacerations, torn blood vessels from impact, foreign object
Secondary Injury – An insult to the brain subsequent to the original traumatic

Head Injury

Increase intracranial volume

Increase ICP

Displacement of the brain against rigid structure of the skull

Restriction of blood flow

Ischemia / Infarction

Cerebral blood flow ceases

Brain Death
A. Scalp Injury
• A minor head injury
• Trauma may result in abrasion, contusion, laceration, or hematoma beneath
the layers of tissue of scalp
• The area is irrigated before laceration is sutured to remove foreign materials
and to remove foreign infections
• Subgaleal Hematoma – Hematomas below the outer covering of the skull

B. Skull Fractures
• A break in the continuity of the skull caused by forceful trauma
• May occur with or without damage to the brain
• Classified as: linear, comminuted, depressed, basilar

Clinical Manifestations
• Battle’s sign – An area of bruising may be seen over the mastoid
• CSF otorrhea – CSF escapes from the ears (suspected of basal skull fractures)
• CSF rhinorrhea – CSF escapes from nose
• Halo sign – Blood stain surrounded by a yellowish stain (suggestive of CSF

Assessment and Diagnostic Findings

• CT scan – can detect less apparent abnormalities
• MRI – produces more accurate picture of the anatomic nature of the injury
• Cerebral Angiography- identifies supratentorial, extracerebral, and
intracerebral hematomas and cerebral contusions

Medical Managements
• After the skull fragments are elevated, the area is debrided
• Large defects can be repaired immediately with bone or artificial grafts
• Nasopharynx and external ear should be kept clean (to asses CSF leakage)
• The head is elevated 30 degrees


• Close (blunt) brain injury – occurs when the head accelerates and then
rapidly decelerates or collides with another object and brain tissue is damaged,
but there is no opening through the skull and dura
• Open brain injury – occurs when an object penetrates the skull, enters the
brain, and damages the soft brain tissue in its path (penetrating injury), or
when blunt trauma to the head is so severe that it opens the scalp, skull and
dura to expose the brain

A. Concussion - A temporary loss of neurologic functions with no apparent

structural damage to the brain
• “Seeing stars” – jarring of the brain cause dizziness and spots before the
• If frontal lobe is affected – bizarre, irrational behavior
• If Temporal lobe – temporary amnesia or disorientation
• Observe patient for postconcussion syndrome such as headache, dizziness,
lethargy irritability, and anxiety

B. Contusion - Bruising of the brain surface with possible surface hemorrhage

• Often there is involuntary evacuation of the bowels and the bladder.
• Patient may be aroused with effort but soon slips back into

C. Diffuse Axonal Injury

• Involves widespread damage to axons in the cerebral hemispheres, corpus
callosum, and brain stem
• Patient has no lucid intervals and experiences immediate coma, decorticate
and decerebrate posturing
• Diagnosis: CT scan and MRI

D. Intracranial Hemorrhage

• Major symptoms are frequently delayed until the hematoma is large enough to
cause distortion of the brain and increased ICP

1. Epidural Hematoma
• Collection of blood in the epidural space between the skull and the
• Usually, there is a momentary loss of consciousness at the time of
injury, followed by an interval of apparent recovery.
• Treatment consists of making openings through the skull (burr
holes) to decrease ICP emergently, remove the clot and control the

2. Subdural Hematoma
• A collection of blood between the dura and the brain, a space
normally occupied by a thin cushion of fluid
• The most common cause is trauma, but it may also occur from
coagulophaties or rupture from an aneurysm

a. Acute Sudural Hematoma

• Associated with major head injury involving contusion and
• S/Sx: change in LOC, pupillary signs, hemiparesis
• Symptoms develop over 24 – 48 hours
b. Subacute Subdural Hematoma
• Result of less severe contusions and head trauma
• Symptoms appear between 48 hours to 2 weeks

c. Chronic Subdural Hematoma

• Develop from minor head injuries
• Seen most frequently in elderly
• Onset of symptoms: 3 weeks to months
• Can be mistaken for a stroke
• Severe head aches tend to come and go
• Treatment consists of surgical evacuation of clot, carried out
through multiple burr holes

3. Intracerebral Hemorrhage and Hematoma

• Bleeding into the substance of the brain.
• Commonly seen in head injuries when force is exerted to the head
over a small area (missile injuries, bullet wounds, stab injury)
• The hemorrhages within the brain may result from systemic
hypertension which causes degeneration and rupture of vessel;
rupture of saccular aneurysm; vascular anomalies; intracranial
• Management includes supportive care, control of ICP, and careful
administration of fluids, electrolytes, and antihypertensive
• Surgical intervention by craniotomy or craniectomy

Clinical Manifestations of Brain Injury

• Altered LOC • Pupillary abnormality
• Confusion • Altered or absent gag reflex
• Absent corneal reflex • Sensory dysfunction
• Sudden onset of neurologic • Spasticity
deficits • Headache
• Changes in vital signs • Vertigo
• Vision and hearing • Movement disorders
impairment • Seizures

Management of Brain Injuries

• CT scan, MRI, PET
• From the scene of injury the patient is transported on a board with the head
and neck maintained in alignment with the axis of the body
• Use cervical collar until spinal cord injury is ruled out
• Secondary Injury – injury to the brain subsequent to the original traumatic
• Treatment includes ventilatory support, seizure prevention, fluid and
electrolyte maintenance, nutritional support, and pain and anxiety


• SCI is an injury to the spinal cord, vertebral column, supporting soft tissue, or
intervertebral disks caused by trauma
• The vertebrae most frequently involved in SCI are the C5, C6, C7, T12, and
L1. These vertebrae are most susceptible because there is a greater range of
mobility in the vertebra column in these areas

2 Categories of SCI
• Primary injuries – result of the initial insult or trauma and are usually
• Secondary injuries – the result of a contusion or tear injury in which the nerve
fibers begins to swell and disintegrate.

Clinical Manifestations
Types of Injury
• Incomplete spinal cord lesion
• Complete spinal cord lesion
1. Paraplegia – paralysis of the lower body
2. Quadriplegia – paralysis of all four extremities

Effects of SCI
• Central Cord Syndrome
- Motor deficits in the upper extremities, bowel or bladder dysfunction.
- Caused by injury or edema of the central cord, usually of the cervical area

• Anterior Cord Syndrome

- Loss of pain, temperature, and motor function is noted below the level of the
lesion with preservation of position, vibration, and touch sense.
- Caused by acute disk herniation or hyperflexion injuries
- May also occur as a result of injury to the anterior spinal artery, which
supplies the anterior two-thirds of the spinal cord

• Brown – Sequard Syndrome (Lateral Cord Syndrome)

- Ipsilateral paralysis or paresis
- Loss of pain and temperature sensation on opposite side
- Loss of voluntary motor control on the same side as the cord damage
- Caused by transverse hemisection of the cord

Assessment and Diagnostic Findings

• Diagnostic x-rays and CT scanning are performed initially
• Continuous electrocardiographic monitoring

Emergency Management
• Initial care must include rapid assessment, immobilization, extrication,
stabilization or control of life-threatening injuries, and transportation to the
most appropriate medical facility
• At the scene of injury, the patient must be immobilized on a spinal board,
with head and neck in neutral position
• Control patient’s head to prevent flexion, rotation, or extension
• Patient must always be maintained in extended positon

Management of Spinal Cord Injuries (Acute Phase)

• High dose Corticosteroids – to improve motor and sensory outcomes
• Administer oxygen to maintain a high arterial PO2
• Skeletal fracture reduction and traction
• Halo vest – A lightweight vest with an attached halo tat stabilizes the cervical
• Surgical management, if: there’s compression of the cord, unstable vertebral
body, wound penetrates the cord, there are bony fragments in the spinal canal,
neurologic status is deteriorating

Management of Complications of SCI

• Spinal and Neurogenic Shock – close observation is required for early
detection of an abrupt onset of fever
• Deep Vein Thrombosis – low-dose anticoagulation is initiated, along with
thigh-high elastic compression stockings
• Other respiratory complications and autonomic dysreflexia