Brain Injuries: Surviving a Gunshot Wound to the Head, Part Two

Last week we discussed how nine out of 10 people die from their injuries after being shot in the head. Americans have been amazed by the survival of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot over a week ago. Many have been following her story, and reporters have been interviewing doctors in order to understand how someone can survive such an injury. We will continue this discussion on our blog today, focusing on the developments in brain surgeries, and what patients of brain injuries face in the coming years of recovery.

Doctors have been careful not to reveal any specific details of the congresswoman’s injuries, but they have been able to discuss similar cases and their experiences in the field. One thing neurosurgeons continue to reiterate is the fact that Gabrielle Giffords will recover at her own pace, as many other patients suffering similar injuries do. Giffords’ neurosurgeon explained, “It is week to week, month to month. As long as we don’t backslide, that’s good. That keeps us hopeful.”

If an individual survives the initial trauma of a brain injury, the second biggest threat to the individual’s life is brain swelling. The brain is protected by the skull, but if the brain begins to swell, pressure between the skull and the brain could cause a stroke. Treatment for brain injuries has significantly advanced in recent years, and doctors have found ways to help prevent swelling from killing patients. In Giffords’ case, she was put in a medically induced coma to limit brain activity. Less brain activity helps reduce swelling or prevents swelling from getting worse. Surgeons also removed parts of her skull on the left side in order to let her brain freely swell without creating too much pressure.

Swelling of the brain can last days or weeks. Once the swelling goes down, surgeons will be able to reattach the rest of the skull. If the skull is badly damaged, a prosthetic skull may be used. Doctors must also watch for any signs of infection or seizures while treating patients suffering from brain injuries. After surgeons are able to reattach the skull, they then start the rehabilitation process. For some patients, it could take many years before they fully recover.

The long-term effects of brain injuries also vary in patients. Neurosurgeons explain that injuries on the left side of the brain can paralyze part of the right side of the body. Damages to the frontal lobe of the brain could cause a change in personality. Other concerns could be difficulty with processing thoughts, speaking or critical thinking. Fortunately for Giffords, the bullet did not travel through both hemispheres of the brain. That means her chances of suffering from lifelong damage to speech, movement and other functions are less.

Individuals who suffer from brain injuries face many challenges on the road to recovery. Personal injury lawyers in Florida are experienced with working for clients who have suffered many types of brain injuries. They understand how lives can be completely changed after an injury resulting from a car accident or football practice, and they help their clients receive the compensation they deserve. The recovery process can be long and financially draining. Personal injury attorneys believe that their clients should only have to focus on their health.

Sources:The Arizona Republic: “Gabrielle Giffords faces uncertain future after being shot in the head,” Ken Alltucker, 12 Jan. 2011
Orlando Sentinel: “Doctors: How can a patient survive a bullet through the brain?” Linda Shrieves, 10 Jan. 2011