What is Latent Brain Injury?
Latent brain injury is a term that refers to a brain injury that may not be apparent in the hours and days after it occurs, even if testing is done. These injuries commonly occur as the result of a blow to the head that the victim “walks off,” insisting that he or she is not badly injured, perhaps even declining medical attention.
A victim may be briefly rendered unconscious when they are injured, or may not lose consciousness at all. Most of the time, people do make a complete recovery from such injuries, especially if they do receive proper medical attention. But in some cases, especially where seemingly mild injuries are suffered repeatedly, problems can arise weeks, months, or even years later.
Changing the Way We Talk About Brain Injury
Which would you rather have: a concussion, or a mild traumatic brain injury? Most people have either had a concussion, or know someone who has had one. If you have played youth sports like football or soccer, you may have experienced multiple concussions. Because concussions are so common, and because most people do make a full recovery, there is a tendency to not think of them as very serious. So when people are asked the question above, they usually say they would prefer to have a concussion.
But it’s a trick question. “Mild traumatic brain injury” is now how physicians refer to what are commonly called concussions. It is a more accurate term to describe what is happening to the brain: mild trauma. Whether you are a student athlete who just wants to get back in the game, an employee who suffered an injury at work but doesn’t want the hassle of filing an incident report, or a driver who struck their head in a minor car accident but doesn’t feel the need to get checked out at a hospital, mild traumatic brain injury could spell trouble down the road, especially if you have suffered similar injuries before.
What Latent Brain Injury Looks Like
By definition, symptoms of latent brain injury may not be immediately connected with the head injury the victim suffered. Those symptoms may appear as long as several years later, though they may also turn up weeks or months later.
One type of latent brain injury is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a neurodegenerative disorder that results from repeated head injuries. If you have heard of CTE, it was probably in connection with retired football players who developed dementia-like symptoms and personality changes. Because of the nature of professional football, these players probably suffered numerous concussions during their career. However, many of them did not exhibit symptoms until years after the end of their career.
While CTE may be the best known form of latent brain injury, there are others. Some latent brain injuries develop after just one head injury. Some symptoms to look for include:
- Loss of memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sudden mood changes
- Increased irritability or aggression.
If you or a loved one start experiencing symptoms such as these in the weeks or months following a head injury, consider returning to your physician for testing, particularly if you declined medical attention at the time of your head injury, or if an MRI or CT scan was not performed after your injury.
Many of these are common symptoms that can be caused by something as simple as dehydration, of course. But if you experience multiple symptoms, or they persist, you should consider getting checked out.
More Serious Symptoms of Latent Brain Injury
Symptoms of a more serious latent brain injury include seizures or stroke-like symptoms including slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, confusion, and unequally dilated pupils. These symptoms are less common than those listed above, but are more serious. If someone begins exhibiting any of these symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention, especially if they have suffered a head injury. These symptoms can indicate a serious medical condition, and a delay in treatment can result in negative outcomes, including permanent deficits.
The bottom line is that any head injury, even a so called mild concussion, should be thoroughly evaluated. If you had a head injury and are not satisfied with the treatment you received, or are concerned that you are experiencing symptoms of a latent brain injury, get a second opinion and, if needed, follow-up treatment.
If you believe your doctor missed signs of a brain injury that a reasonable doctor would have picked up and addressed, you may be entitled to compensation for medical malpractice. We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a consultation regarding your case.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.