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For Every Blow to the Head, Quick Action Is Urged
Date:6/14/2009

Symptoms may not be noticeable, but fatal brain damage can occur,,

SUNDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- The tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson in March riveted people's attention to the issue of brain injury and raised important questions about what to do if this happens to you or a loved one.

Richardson died hours after taking a minor fall while skiing at a Quebec resort. She picked herself up from the fall and refused medical attention, but three hours later in her hotel room, she complained of a headache. Within hours she was in critical condition. Two days after the fall, she died.

"Even when someone looks fine initially, it can still have devastating consequences," said Dr. Greg O'Shanick, national medical director for the Brain Injury Association of America. "The critical issue is that you don't have to lose consciousness to sustain a significant brain injury," he explained.

"In this case, Richardson had what's called an epidural hematoma," O'Shanick continued. "There's an artery that runs right underneath the skull, and the skull on the temple is very thin. You can break the bone, the bone cuts the artery and a high-pressure blood clot forms. That then squeezes the brain."

Richardson's death, though, is known to have saved at least one life. An Ohio couple whose 7-year-old daughter had been struck in the temple two days earlier by a baseball hit by her dad rushed the girl to a doctor after watching a news report on Richardson, according to published reports.

It turned out she was suffering from the same condition as Richardson. Her parents' quick action was credited with saving the little girl's life.

More than 1.4 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury each year in the United States, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Most are treated and released from an emergency department, but 235,000 are hospitalized and 50,000 die.

Dr. Rade Vukm
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