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Natasha Richardson Dies After Brain Injury

Brain Experts Weigh In on Natasha Richardson's Head Injuries From a Skiing Accident

What would account for a delayed reaction after a fall? continued...

"The first thing that the body does anywhere there's trauma is send more blood in order to bring the immune system, so the immune system can make an assessment and clean up what it needs to clean up. The same thing is true inside of the brain. So now, not only is there a bleeding into the brain region, but more blood is wanting to get there in order to bring the immune system in order to clean it up," Taylor explains.

"At this point, the brain's in trauma and as long as the cells are essentially swimming in a pool of blood, they cannot perform their function," Taylor says.



How long can that delay last?

Symptoms of brain injury may take an hour or two, or perhaps longer, to develop.

"If something bad is going to occur, it's almost always within the first 24 hours," Grafman says. "That's why anybody who's had any kind of a head injury should be watched closely ... certainly for the first 24 hours, and should almost always go see a doctor," Grafman says.


How rare is a serious traumatic brain injury?

As a rough estimate, there are "probably at least a million head injuries per year in the United States. Probably 80% or more are mild sort of dings you might get playing football or something of that nature, or a slight fall," says Grafman, who has studied brain injuries for nearly 30 years.

"The overwhelming majority of those people who have that kind of very mild head injury are going to recover nicely, either very quickly or certainly with six to nine months," Grafman says.

Does everyone need an MRI or CT brain scan after a head injury?

Probably not.

"I think most people would say that's probably overkill, since the kind of situation that happened to [Richardson] is relatively rare," Grafman says. "If you have symptoms ... then it's likely somebody would have a scan. But if somebody is apparently symptom-free after a ding, it's not likely they would have a scan."

Doctors would also perform a neurologic exam, checking on the patient's mental status and whether they're confused or sleepy, as well as investigating their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a brain injury?

Grafman's list of brain injury symptoms includes headaches, nausea, general malaise and discomfort, seizures, changes in thinking, changes in memory, and changes in attention or other mental skills.

"All those kinds of things are usually not too subtle if there's a big problem that needs intervention," Grafman says. "For a milder head injury that might cause some subtle symptoms, as often as not, CT scan or MRI is going to be negative. You're not going to see anything" on the brain scan, he says.

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