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
"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
"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
"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?
"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
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.