Vehicle accidents often cause Tennessee drivers and passengers to be violently thrown about their car or truck, causing the brain to shake and suffer a traumatic injury. Comas are a potential complication for anyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
According to the Mayo Clinic, a coma is a lengthy state of unconsciousness during which the patient is not responsive to her/his environment. While the patient looks asleep, the difference is that a person in a coma cannot be awakened by any stimulation.
Over half of all comas are due to a traumatic brain injury or some trouble with the circulatory system of the brain. A TBI can cause the brain to bleed or swell, which, in turn, can cause the brain to push on the brain stem, damaging the Reticular Activating System – which is accountable for awareness. There are other causes of comas, such as lack of oxygen, strokes, high blood sugar levels, infections, toxins, and seizures.
Types of comas
Doctors need to recognize the type of coma a person has in order to be able to treat or monitor it. In the worst cases, a coma patient’s brain function ceases, and they are brain dead. Some patients are medically induced into a coma through a controlled amount of anesthetic to protect the brain from swelling. Coma patients may also have:
- Anoxic brain injury. This can be caused by a head trauma or other causes. It is a coma due to a complete lack of oxygen to the brain for any length of time.
- Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy. This type of brain dysfunction causes confusion or delirium and can often be reversed.
- Persistent vegetative state. Here, the patient is not aware of his/her surroundings though they do breathe and have sleep-wake cycles. Even if they do wake, their brain function is often limited.
Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological state where the patient can move the eye muscles and is awake with a normally functioning mind. The rest of their body is paralyzed.
Treating a traumatic brain injury due to an auto accident is different than treating a coma caused by an infection, diabetic shock, or other non-trauma related causes. In some cases, surgery can help reduce swelling or remove a tumor which has developed. Medications may also help. For the most part, patients in a coma are confined to an intensive care unit where life support measures can be applied.
Whether a person comes out of a coma varies depending on how the coma occurred, if any treatments are possible, and the length of the coma. Patients with comas from a TBI are more likely to recover, with extensive help and support, than patients who were deprived of oxygen to the brain. Patients who do wake from a coma, especially if it takes weeks or months to wake, often have severe disabilities.
If someone you love has been injured and is suffering from a TBI, you need immediate help to understand your loved one’s medical needs. The Nashville TBI lawyers at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm are experienced in representing individuals who have incurred TBI and their families. We work with medical professionals who understand this complex condition. We work to get your loved one justice for this life-altering injury. To talk with one of our Gladiators in Suits, call us at 615-246-5549 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville.