Traumatic Head Injuries in Infants, Young Children, and Teenagers Significantly Underdiagnosed

Brain injuries often go undetected following a trauma such as an automobile accident, bike accident, or fall. Detection is crucial because an injury to the brain early in life can have long-term effects, including impairments to a child’s ability to control their emotions and inhibit inappropriate behavior. Children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries also can have trouble responding to subtle social cues and planning difficult tasks.

Traumatic brain injuries (often referred to as TBI or sometimes as Acquired Brain Injury) often go undetected because in many cases there is no visible wound and unless a brain bleed or other visible abnormality is seen on an MRI or CT scan, the injury may go unnoticed. TBIs in very young (0-4) children are commonly overlooked by doctors even though very young children are at a greater risk for head injuries than the general population. This may have to do with the difficulties inherent in gathering information about cognitive and emotional functioning from children so young.

Warning signs that your child may have suffered a traumatic brain injury include:

  • any loss of consciousness immediately after the head injury
  • a change in behavior immediately after the head injury, such as becoming angry/irritable, lethargic/sleepy, not remembering the injury or other things, or suffering from poor balance, etc.
  • vomiting after the head injury, especially if your child develops persistent vomiting, which is usually defined as vomiting more than three or four times
  • a seizure immediately after the injury or later that day
  • can not open eyes fully after the head injury
  • develops other symptoms after the head injury, such as a severe or worsening headache, stiff neck, or photophobia (sensitivity to light), etc.
  • personality changes

Many of the warning signs of a pediatric brain injury are subtle and may only be noticed by family and close friends of the child with whom the child spent significant time prior to the injury.

If you suspect that your child may have suffered a traumatic brain injury, ask your doctors to refer you to a pediatric neuropsychologist – they are the doctors best equipped to diagnose head injuries in children.

Also, consider hiring an attorney to gather the evidence you need in order to prove your child’s brain injury was caused by the trauma they suffered. Insurance companies routinely deny that these difficult to detect injuries were caused by the accident in question. You need a lawyer on your side if you want the insurance company to pay for past medical bills and the future costs of care for your injured child.

2 thoughts on “Traumatic Head Injuries in Infants, Young Children, and Teenagers Significantly Underdiagnosed

  1. I was in a car accident when I was 4 years old. I received trauma to the head. I was in a coma for 16 days. I had to learn everything all over again. My cousin did not survive the accident. When we arrived at the hospital…the doctors informed my uncle (Mother was in too bad a shape for doctors to talk to) that he should get all family members to the hospital ASAP. The doctors told my family that my life was in God’s hands…there was nothing they could do for me. They gave me less than 10 hours to live. 50 years later…I’m still here. I do have short term memory loss and other issues to deal with but I am here.

    • Mr. Sarro, I’m glad you’re still here and able to share your survival story! Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like your injuries were obvious to everyone, at least during that initial period of coma, and you were treated quickly. I’ve had clients who suffered “mild” traumatic brain injuries and had a nightmare of a time getting anyone to recognize what has happened or treat them. Sometimes it’s a uninterested doctor, other times it is just that the imaging technology has not developed to the point where all brain injuries can be detected on scan (some axonal shearing is microscopic, for instance). Either way, when our master organ (the brain) is injured, we all need all the help we can find to get better. Thank you for commenting.

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