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Doctor Explains How Traumatic Brain Injury is Many Diseases, Not Just One

Our Chicago brain injury lawyers know that it is often misleading to categorize legal actions with blanket labels, because those labels often mask the true complexity of many underlying medical problems. For example, an article published recently in Family Practice News discussed the truth about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Contrary to the public perception of some, TBIs are not a single problem but actually a catch-all term for a wide range of issues. This important distinction has implications on both the legal issues connected to these injuries as well as the medical treatment options for traumatic brain injury victims.

In the new article the doctor explains that developments in treating many brain injuries has been slow coming, in part, because doctors have been a bit naïve in thinking of the harm as all coming from one disease. He went on to note that, “People have argued that we are treating traumatic brain injury as if we were treating cancer as a single disease. Maybe we need to do classifications.” It is only logical to assume that failing to identify the different types of brain injury would mean that those differences are ignored or downplayed when treatment options are researched. Yet understanding the intricate details unique to each type of brain injury is likely crucial to developing treatment plans that are actually effective.

For example, the author explains how there are various ways for a patient to be identified as having a traumatic brain injury following use of the well-known “Glasgow Coma Scale.” Those possibilities include: diffuse swelling, diffuse axonal injury, epidural hematoma, contusion, subdural hematoma, and subarachnoid or intraventricular hemorrhages. Failure to understand brain injuries in terms of various subgroups may result in underutilization of certain helpful treatment.

The doctor identified one example. In clinical trials conducted as part of the National Acute Brain Injury Study, the benefit of early hypothermia to stop the spread of brain damage was not identified as effective. The cooling of the body was thought to act as a neuroprotectant, stopping the chain reaction of brain damage that often results in tragic injuries than can never be repaired. However, when analyzed by subgroup, it became clear that those patients who had hematomas had clear benefits from the hypothermia. Conversely, those patients with diffuse brain injuries seemed to do worse as a result of the body cooling. Together the results seemed to wash out when brain injuries were examined as the same. Clearly then, failure to understand the distinctions when it comes to these injuries may mean that good treatments are ignored and that actual harmful treatments are not identified.

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm understands that these same distinctions may be crucial in determining the appropriate standards of care that should be applicable in all cases where the conduct of medical professionals may be at issue in the case. Treating all brain injuries as if they are the same has very real ramifications of the patients involved and reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that these mistakes in identification do not lead to harm that could have been prevented.

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