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ER Docs Treating Brain Injuries Must Attend to Body Position and Temperature

Tuesday, April 04, 2017By Richard Alexander

When you hear the words “vital signs,” what comes to mind? Many of us have been in the hospital or know someone who has. Nurses make their rounds frequently, checking measurements such as body temperature and blood pressure. One of the reasons this is done is because vital signs are key in helping medical staff see what is happening inside the body so that diagnosis and treatment can be quick and effective.

The time period just after a brain injury takes place is critical. When a traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs, two types of damage result. The first is the actual damage to the head as it is hit or punctured. The other type is called “secondary” damage. It results from “the injured brain being extra susceptible to secondary insults, such as low blood pressure.”

Emergency room and intensive care unit medical staff monitor the condition of TBI patients and try to take actions to limit secondary damage. Three measures that are often taken relate to the patient’s body position, body temperature, and blood pressure.

Some doctors believe that something as simple as body position may make a difference in outcomes for brain injured patients. For example, some suggest that the “head of the bed should be elevated, ideally 30 to 45 degrees.” This helps to reduce pressure inside the injured skull and also reduces the chance that a brain injury victim will develop pneumonia from being on a ventilator.

Doctors also often keep a close watch on a brain injury patient’s body temperature. Fever is “associated with poor outcomes after serious head injury.” For this reason, doctors treat fevers in brain injury victims “aggressively.”

A third factor that is monitored closely after a TBI is blood pressure. An element of low blood pressure is “associated with poor outcomes,” but “elevated blood pressure may be associated with a beneficial response.” In recent years, there has been some debate about how to handle each of these issues.

A recent study in JAMA Surgery stated that “secondary brain injury is initiated by even brief periods of compromised blood flow.”

A skilled brain injury attorney can evaluate your case when you’ve been badly injured in a car wreck or assault. For help, contact the California accident lawyers at Alexander Law Group, LLP for a free, no obligation consultation. Call 888.777.1776 to speak with an attorney right now. Delays can harm your case.

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