Lawton_The unexpected death of Hollywood and Broadway actress Natasha Richardson is drawing new attention to the seriousness of brain injuries. By all accounts, reports say that Richardson seemed fine after she fell on slushy snow while skiing in Canada. And, new reports say she and her instructor even turned away help from paramedics who were en route. A short time later, reports say she complained of feeling sick, and died the following day.
What should you do after a head injury, and when should you become alarmed?
Emergency Room Physician Dr. David Behm says what likely happened to Natasha Richardson is rather rare. He says local ERs see head injuries quite often - but, not to the extent of hers. He says Richardson's brain likely filled with blood after an artery or vein ruptured in her skull. "There's a bleed that goes on underneath the bone and fills up the brain cavity, and caused a great deal of problems as the brain fills up," said Behm. "Fortunately, we don't see that kind of injury often."
In Richardson's case, treating the injury quickly was vital, but in most cases Behm says they're not very serious. "We see many, many head injuries during the course of the week - most of them are rather benign." Nevertheless, Behm says you should always take the advice of paramedics who may be called to check out possible injuries.
Behm says there are symptoms that should be a tell-tale sign of the need for emergency treatment. "If you've been knocked unconscious, you're not you're normal self or you've been vomiting - those are things that are most important," he said. "If those things happen, certainly we're going to investigate them more fully."
He says one thing you do not have to worry about is something you may have heard from your mom and dad growing up: "There's no protective value about keeping someone awake. I think that's a notion that's propagated by Hollywood that really has no physiological benefit."
However, Behm does say helmet are beneficial. "People who do participate in active sports - such as bicycling, skateboarding, where there can be falls - do wear a helmet, and do take the precautions necessary to protect themselves," he said.
He says CAT scans are the best way that doctors can determine if the brain has suffered bruising, bleeding, or swelling, but says most of the patients who come to the ER usually do not have that severe of an injury.
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