Penetrating brain injuries, also known as "open brain injuries", result from literal penetration of the skull and the dura, the protective membrane outside the brain. They can sometimes reach into the brain itself. Penetrating brain injuries can be caused by an object like a bullet or a knife, pieces of the victim's own broken skull or both. Because they destroy essential tissues and invite serious secondary dangers from swelling and bleeding, penetrating brain injuries can be very serious, causing death or severe disabilities. The prognosis is especially grim for victims of a perforating head injury, in which a missile goes through the head completely, leaving an exit wound.
An open brain injury always involves some sort of break in the skull. Types of skull fracture include:
- Linear skull fracture, which is a crack or break that doesn't cause the skull to collapse. A linear skull fracture is the most common type of skull fracture, and it can be mild or serious, depending on where it is.
- Depressed skull fracture, in which fragments of broken bone press down into the brain or penetrate it. This is the type of fracture that victims of a blow from a blunt object are likely to have.
- Diastatic skull fractures are breaks along the lines where plates of the skull fused when the victim was a young child. They are most common in small children.
- Basilar skull fractures are breaks at the base of the skull. This is rare but very serious, and is commonly caused by severe whiplash, in which the head is suddenly jerked forward by the spine.
Like a closed head injury, an open head injury can lead to bleeding or swelling in the head, which can lead to brain damage either directly, by destroying cells, or indirectly, by depriving cells of the oxygen they need to survive. However, an open head injury also poses a serious risk of infection, because the skull and surrounding tissues can no longer protect the brain from the outside world. A common and dangerous infection in open head injuries is meningitis, an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spine. If not controlled, it can cause swelling and further brain damage.
Unlike a closed head injury, most penetrating head injuries cause focal damage, meaning the damage is concentrated in one area. Because specific physical locations in the brain control specific functions, a person with focal damage may lose significant amounts of one function, while others continue to work normally. Thus, a person with an open head injury may only have problems with a specific set of physical, intellectual, sensory or executive tasks. But those problems may be very severe, requiring years of care from a team of doctors, therapists and mental health professionals.
If you or someone you love sustained a penetrating head injury because of another person's negligence, you have rights. They include the right to seek justice with a traumatic brain injury lawsuit. With the help of the experienced New York brain injury lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, you may be able to win compensation for physical injuries, long-term disabilities, medical costs, pain and suffering and more. For a free evaluation of your case, contact us at (212) 986-7353 today.