Head Injury (Brain Injury)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideConcussions & Brain Injuries Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Tests & Treatment

Concussions & Brain Injuries Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Tests & Treatment

How is a head injury treated?

The treatment of a head injury depends upon the type of injury. For patients with minor head injuries (concussions), nothing more may be needed other than observation and symptom control. Headache may require pain medication. Nausea and vomiting may require medications to control these symptoms.

Bleeding

Intracerebral bleeding or bleeding in the spaces surrounding the brain are neurosurgical emergencies, although not all bleeding requires an operation. The decision to operate will be individualized based upon the injury and the patient's medical status.

One option may include craniotomy, drilling a hole into the skull or removing part of one of the skull bones to remove or drain a blood clot, and thereby relieve pressure on brain tissue.

Other times, the treatment is supportive, and there may be a need to monitor the pressure within the brain. The neurosurgeon may place a pressure monitor through a drilled hole through the skull to monitor the pressure. The slang term for this procedure is "placing a bolt."

Supportive care is often required for those patients with significant amounts of bleeding in their brain and who are in coma. Many times, the patient requires intubation to help control breathing and to protect them from vomiting and aspirating vomit into the lungs. Medications may be used to sedate the patient for comfort and to prevent injury if the bleeding causes combativeness. Medications may also be used to try to control swelling in the brain if necessary.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2015
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