October 22, 2014

Joan Rivers' Death Caused by Brain Injury

by Levin & Perconti

On September 4th, the world of comedy lost one its most beloved queens, when Joan Rivers passed away. Now, almost six weeks later, the official medical examination is reporting that Rivers' death was the result of traumatic injury to the brain. According to a CNN report, the 81 year old comedian died from “therapeutic complications” following a medical throat procedure. The New York Chief Medical Examiner is reportedly listing the cause of death as anoxic encephalopathy, a type of brain damage that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. In the official statement, the examiner defines the events as “a predictable complication of medical therapy.”

Lack of Oxygen to the Brain

Oxygen is vital to the functions of the brain. After only takes four minutes without oxygen, brain cells begin to die. This is defined as hypoxia. According to Mount Sinai Hospital, it can occur in two ways, including:

*The blood flow to the brain is either blocked or slowed. This often happens as a result of stroke, blood clots or heart attacks.

* There is normal blood flow, but an inadequate amount of oxygen is in the blood. This may occur as a result of:
1. Lung disease
2. At high altitudes, where there is a lack of oxygen in the air
3. Exposure to certain toxins, like carbon dioxide, can lead to hypoxia
4. An event that impedes normal breathing, such as drowning or choking.

Hypoxia can progress at various rates. The symptoms for mild to moderate hypoxia include headaches, poor coordination and an inability to concentrate. If the condition is diagnosed and treated in time, long term injury is avoidable. Severe hypoxia occurs rapidly, resulting in a traumatic brain injury or death.

For Rivers, the medical complications started during a laryngoscopy, which is reportedly a routine throat procedure. CNN reports that her vocal chords began to swell, which began to diminish the flow of oxygen within her body. Pathologist Bill Loyd is quoted in the article as stating, "She stopped breathing and her heart went into arrhythmia because there wasn't sufficient oxygen to maintain the heart muscle... The pump, the heart itself, was unable to move fresh oxygenated blood upstream to the brain." While the hypoxia started from the vocal cord complications, it progressed quickly when her heart stopped beating. The resulting anoxic encephalopathy ultimately caused her death.

Prevention and Treatment

Mount Sinai Hospital advises that the risk of anoxic encephalopathy can be lessened by taking certain steps:

-Learning to Swim
-Chewing food completely and properly
-Installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors
-Avoiding exposure to high voltage electricity sources

However, the condition may also result from the actions of a physician. According to recent reports, the medical center where Rivers was treated is currently under investigation and may ultimately shut down if wrong-doing is found. For incidents where malpractice is proven, the responsible party should be held financially responsible for the pain and suffering of the victim.

If you or a loved one suffered anoxic encephalopathy at the hands of a treating physician, contact the experienced attorneys of Levin & Perconti at (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation. These knowledgeable attorneys will aggressively work to secure the compensation to which you are entitled.

See Other Blog Posts:

Controversy Continues About Helmets, Warning labels, and Brain Injury

“The Crash Reel” Documentary on Snowboarding & TBIs

October 15, 2014

Accident Related Brain Injuries and Memory Loss

by Levin & Perconti

On a New Jersey highway in June, a fatal accident took the life of one successful comedian and tragically changed the life of another. Recent reports reveal that television actor and comedian Tracy Morgan is suffering from traumatic brain injuries. These complications are reportedly so severe that may permanently keep him from returning to the stage.

Morgan was a passenger in a limousine, when the vehicle was reportedly hit from behind by a Wal-Mart tractor trailer. In the weeks that followed, news outlets reported that the driver of the tractor trailer had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the accident and he was officially charged with vehicular homicide and death by automobile. Morgan also filed a lawsuit against the retail store for negligence and reckless conduct. According to recent reports, a counter suit was filed alleging that Morgan is to blame for not wearing his safety belt.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the third leading cause of traumatic head injuries among victims of all age, making up about 14% of all incidents. In addition, auto accidents cause 26% of all traumatic head injury deaths, making them the second leading cause of these fatalities between 2006 and 2010. When an accident occurs, the impact can result in a variety of injuries. It can cause a jolting, bumping or penetration of the passenger's head, which may interrupt normal brain functions.

Memory Loss

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October 10, 2014

NFL Legend Lends Name to Brain Injury Research

by Levin & Perconti

A legend of the National Football League (NFL) recently announced his support for a new brain injury research facility that will bear his name. Several news outlets are reporting that Joe Namath, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, is lending his name to a Florida treatment center for brain injury research. He is quoted as saying, "My suffering has come from losing some friends, has come from watching some guys deteriorate over the years, guys that have had traumatic brain injuries, teammates of mine.”

Namath played football for much of his adult life, first as a quarterback at the University of Alabama. He was drafted to the New York Jets in 1965, earning a record breaking salary for the time. Namath played in the inaugural game of Monday Night Football and worked his way to one Super Bowl win before retiring from the game in 1978. Since that time, he's been able to successfully stretch his talents in a number of directions, as an actor and a business owner. In January, he publicly spoke to the press about his problems with brain injury and the effects of football on the body.

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September 30, 2014

NFL Faces New Brain Injury Lawsuit

by Levin & Perconti

The new professional football season is here, with new games, new players and new problems. However, one old problem continues to plague the controversial National Football League (NFL). According to recent reports, the widow of a former player is suing the league, along with several other defendants, for its alleged failure to adequately protect players from traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The plaintiff's husband spent about five years in the league, playing for the New Orleans Saints, as well as the San Diego Chargers. In 2013, he took his own life with a gunshot wound to his head, while in the presence of his wife and his children. At the time of his death, court documents allege that he suffered from the consequences of numerous head traumas and concussions. However, it was not until the autopsy that doctors formerly diagnosed him with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other brain injuries.

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September 23, 2014

The Risks of “Talk and Die Syndrome”

by Levin & Perconti

Victims of traumatic brain injuries generally exhibit numerous symptoms. However, there are rare occasions when the victim demonstrates no indication of injury, followed by a severe medical emergency. Termed “talk and die syndrome”, the condition can prove critical and even fatal if it is not caught in time. Though they are both classified as traumatic brain injuries, the syndrome differs from a concussion in the type of damage that occurs inside the skull and brain.

“Talk and die syndrome” gained national exposure in 2009 when an award winning actress was killed following a ski accident. According to a report in the New York Times, Natasha Richardson suffered a brain injury while on a skiing vacation. She fell during a lesson and while she was not wearing a helmet, her fall was reportedly not serious. Witnesses stated that she appeared fine, showing no signs of injury. About an hour after the incident, Richardson reportedly began feeling ill and she was taken to an area hospital, where she ultimately died. In the days following, medical experts concluded that her death was a result of “talk and die syndrome”.

What is “Talk and Die”

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September 16, 2014

A Possible Connection Between TBIs and Suicide Risk

by Levin & Perconti

September is suicide awareness month and recent studies suggest a possible link between traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in youth and increased suicide risks. According to a study reported by Psych Central, teenagers who experience a traumatic brain injury have “significantly greater odds” of developing high-risk behaviors, including suicidal tendencies.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes a TBI as a “disruption to normal brain function” caused by a sudden blow or jolting of the head. These conditions range from mild to severe depending on the level of injury. Mild TBIs are generally known as concussions, while severe injuries may result in long term memory loss and extended unconsciousness. Youth and teens are at an increased risk for TBIs, due to falls and participation in youth recreation. The CDC reports that in 2009, almost 250,000 children under the age of 19 were treated for sports related injuries, including TBI diagnoses.

The teen TBI study was conducted in Canada, where more than 9,000 students in grades seven through 12 were surveyed about their health and well-being, including traumatic brain injuries. It is reportedly estimated that nearly 20% of teens in the area experienced a TBI as some point in their youth. According to the article, study researchers concluded that teens with a history of TBI were twice as likely to experience bullying from classmates and three times as likely to attempt suicide. Specific observed negative behaviors included:

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September 7, 2014

Researchers Find a Correlation Between Higher Education and TBI Recovery

by Levin & Perconti

Traumatic brain injuries send approximately 1.5 million people to the emergency room every year. They are the top cause of death and disability in individuals under the age of 45, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation. There are currently 5.3 million Americans living with brain injury disability. Rates of recovery differ, depending on the seriousness of the injury. While researchers have identified numerous factors that affect the rate of healing, recent studies suggest that patients with higher levels of education exemplify a better rate of recovery.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University recently conducted a research study about “cognitive reserve”, which measures the brain's functionality when damaged. According to a report by CBS News , researchers determined that patients were more likely to recover from brain injuries if they had earned at least an undergraduate degree prior to their injury. These results are reportedly similar to previous findings in dementia studies, where patients with advanced education showed a slower progression of the disease.

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August 29, 2014

Even New Army Helmets Don't Prevent Brain Injuries

by Levin & Perconti

As part on an ongoing effort to protect servicemembers from serious injury, the army recently revealed the prototype of a new helmet that was specifically designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The Conformal Integrated Protective Headgear System includes a jaw protector and face visor to provide a more comprehensive level of safety for the soldier. However, despite the efforts of developers, testers determined that the helmets may prove more harmful than protective.

According to an article in The Blaze, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) determined that the changes to the helmet, while more protective of the face, are not adequate in protecting the head from the potentially devastating effects of a blast. In conducting the tests, researchers used gelled test dummies. After equipping them with the helmets, explosives were set off from a distance to simulate the the types of blasts that a soldier may encounter during battle. The findings showed that the resulting pressure on the brain was not significantly decreased.

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August 20, 2014

Civil Litigation, Defective Safety Belts, and Brain Injuries

by Levin & Perconti

Automobiles are a staple of American society. All across the country, people rely on their cars to keep their lives moving and handle their respective responsibilities. To promote auto safety, drivers and passengers depend on seat belts to protect them in the event of an accident. When these vital safety devices malfunction, death and injuries (like brain damage) can result. The victims of these occurrences deserve reimbursement for the pain and suffering that the product failure causes. Though automobile companies often try to mitigate the problem with massive recalls, legal actions are sometimes necessary to secure adequate compensation.

Recent Safety Belt Recalls

According to a recent report by MSN News, General Motors (GM) recently recalled more than 40,000 vehicles due to defective safety belts. This latest recall adds to the more than sixty recalls from GM in the last few years. The report explains that there is inadequate tension in the front seat belts, creating extra slack in the event of an accident. The belts were designed to tighten during a crash, in order to hold the driver and passengers firmly in place. Without proper tension, the belts are not as useful during an automobile accident. The company reportedly claims that the defect was discovered during crash testing.

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August 6, 2014

New Information Suggests Vacuums May Lessen the Effects of TBIs

by Levin & Perconti

Researchers at Wake Forest University are working on a new and innovative treatment for traumatic brain injuries. According to the study, which was published in the health journal Neurosurgery, careful applications of vacuum pressure can control further brain tissue damage following an injury. The process is called "mechanical tissue resuscitation" and its study is funded in part by the United States Army.

Presently, the research is conducted on swine with localized brain injuries. Physicians reportedly placed a low pressure vacuum over the infected areas of their brains and monitored the effects at varying levels of pressure and application times. According to the research report, the results showed that “applying 100 mm Hg of pressure for three days led to a significantly smaller area of brain contusion and reduced bleeding, compared to no pressure”. Researches further noted that the brains of the treated animals were closer to normal than those left untreated.After five days of consistent treatment, all of the treated animals survived. According to the study, the surviving animals showed no signs of deformations in the brain or the development of seizure activity. Researchers reportedly assert that these results stem from an increase in blood flow to the injured tissue. The vacuum pressure reportedly starts the process of oxygenation, when wastes are removed from the area and replaced with healing nutrients.

Mechanical tissue resuscitation is an evolution of the vacuum process, which is successfully used to treat other injuries. However, more research is reportedly necessary before the technique is tested on humans. Researchers state “The ability of mechanical tissue resuscitation to achieve meaningful reduction in loss of brain tissue and hemorrhage injury warrants further investigation.”

Types of TBI Treatment
Traumatic brain injuries are serious problems in today's society. They can result in long term disability and substantial mortality rates. Even after the initial injury, the condition can worsen due to the lack of circulation that causes “the accumulation of metabolites and water in the area of injury.” This leads to the degeneration of brain cells. In an attempt to lessen the immediate and long term effects of the condition, TBI is generally treated in three phases:

Acute Treatment – This occurs in the hospital immediately following the injury causing event. According to the website, brainandspinalcord.org, the main goal is stabilization during this phase. Life support tactics are implemented and surgery is performed as necessary.

Subacute Treatment – This step usually occurs at a specialized medical facility. The patient is screened for likelihood of recovery and an appropriate treatment plans is created. Subacute treatment can last from a few hours to numerous years.

Chronic Treatment – This step is necessary for patients who need long-term care in order to survive and have the best quality of life possible.

If it is eventually implemented, mechanical tissue resuscitation will likely become a tool used during subacute treatment phase..

If you or your loved one suffers from the effects of a traumatic brain injury, contact the experienced brain injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti at (877) 374-1417 for a free consultation.

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July 29, 2014

NCAA Reaches Concussion Settlement

by Levin & Perconti

The National Football League (NFL) is not the only sports organization to reach a concussion settlement agreement with players. As of this week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is also reported to have a settlement. According to a report in USA Today, the college sports organization reached an agreement with the lawsuit plaintiffs just hours before a scheduled status hearing.

The first complaint was filed more than three years ago by four former players. Two of the complainants were former football players, while one was a soccer player and the fourth played hockey. Each of them reportedly claimed to suffer from headaches and depression. Some also asserted having seizures. Over the next few months, at least nine other lawsuits were reportedly filed. They each asserted that NCAA officials knowingly withheld information from student players about the risk of concussions, along with their long term effects. While the settlement does not provide specific damage awards for the original plaintiffs, it does allow each of them to bring their own personal injury complaints against the NCAA individually.

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July 25, 2014

New Study Underway to Lessen Brain Injury Effects

by Levin & Perconti

First response medical teams may soon possess a new tool in the race to prevent the serious effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to a report by WKRC News, a national drug trial is underway to test a new medication that is administered to accident victims before they even arrive at the hospital. Ten emergency medical systems around the country are currently testing tanexamic acid (TXA), to determine its effectiveness when used after serious accidents. Researchers expect to learn more about the benefits of the drug's administration in comparison to incidents where the drug is withheld.

TXA is reportedly a synthetic form of lysine, an amino acid. It is commonly used during surgeries to prevent life threatening amounts of blood loss. The military currently utilizes it as a regular form of treatment on the battlefield, along with several civilian hospitals. Though it is reportedly considered safe for use, its effectiveness against brain injury complications was never before studied. According to the article, traumatic brain injuries often involve bleeding within the head. The asserted rationale behind the study is that TXA can stop any bleeding that may be occurring.

Under the study, TXA is administered as soon as emergency response teams determine that a traumatic brain injury occurred. The drug is administered even if the patient is not conscious and unable to give consent. The federal government allows this to occur under specific drug trials, where an “exception from informed consent.” Participating states do offer residents an opt out option, which involves an arm bracelet to alert first responders.

Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries

The purpose of the study is to prevent the long term effects of TBIs. From cognitive disabilities to death, TBI patients can face a variety of serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 30% of all injury related deaths in the United States are attributed to TBIs, causing more than 130 deaths each day.

Severe, but non-fatal brain injuries can lead to the following complications:

**Cognitive Functions – TBIs can negatively affect a patient's ability to recall information. Patient attention spans can also become diminished from the condition.

**Motor Functions – Patients may experience long-term difficulties with balance and encounter difficulties when conducting activities that require coordination. Extreme muscle weakness is another possible effect of a TBI.

**Sensations – All of the bodily senses can become negatively affected by TBI complications. Sight and vision can become impaired, as well as the sensation of touch.

**Emotions – TBI patients may also experience emotional complications, with feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as increased feelings of aggression and changes to the patient's personality.

The CDC explains that quick diagnosis and early management of the injury are vital to prevention of further complications.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury at the hands of another, contact the experienced attorneys of Levin & Perconti today.

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