Moderate to Severe Head and Neck Injuries

Moderate to severe head and neck injuries require emergent care to prevent spinal cord damage and possible paralysis.

What is a Head Injury?

A head injury is any trauma to the scalp, skull or brain.  Injuries may range from a bump on the head to a traumatic brain injury. Head injuries may be closed or open.  Closed head injuries are often the result of a hard blow to the head from striking an object, but the object did not break the skull.  An open (or penetrating) head injury is often the result of an object hitting your head and breaking your skull and entering the brain.  Open head injuries may occur as a result of a car accident or gunshot to the head.

What Are the Different Types of Head Injuries?

Head injuries may include concussions, scalp wounds and skull fractures. Concussions are the most common type of traumatic brain injury with 1 in 6 injury-related hospital admissions every year.

What are Symptoms of a Serious Head Injury?

Serious head injuries require emergency medical treatment.  Symptoms include:

  • Convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Distorted facial features
  • Slurred speech
  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Low breathing rate
  • Memory loss

The more serious head injuries can cause bleeding in the brain tissue or in the layers that surround the brain (i.e., subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, extradural hematoma), and therefore require emergency care.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Head Injuries?

The most common causes of traumatic head and skull injuries include:

  • Falls
  • Accidents at home, work, outdoors or while playing sports
  • Physical assault
  • Traffic accidents

How Do You Know if You Have a Serious Head Injury?

Victims of a serious head injury often have severe head and face bleeding, and they may be confused, tired or unconscious.  Others might experience short term memory loss (amnesia), headache, vomiting or a seizure.

How Is a Head Injury Treated?

The treatment of a traumatic head injury depends on the type of injury.  At The Emergency Center, the doctor will order a cranial CT (computerized tomography) scan to see if there is swelling or bleeding in the brain or a fracture in the skull.  If you were to have complications after a concussion, the doctor may order a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to help diagnose those complications.

Whatever the outcome, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you with the goal of returning you to the level of function you had prior to the traumatic injury.

What Is a Neck Injury?

A neck injury is any damage to the neck including soft tissue, bone, spinal column and nerves.

Should You Move a Patient with A Neck Injury?

DO NOT MOVE PATIENTS WITH NECK INJURIES UNLESS THEY ARE IN HARM’S WAY.  This is also good advice for patients with head injuries, as head injuries are often associated with neck injuries.  In either case, wait for trained medical personnel to help with moving the patient.

What are The Different Types of Neck Injuries?

The most common neck injuries include a crick in the neck, a muscle strain, a neck sprain, whiplash, a herniated disc, a neck fracture (break in a cervical bone), a cervical dislocation, stingers and burners (temporary injuries to the nerve root or brachial plexus), and a spinal cord injury.

The first three listed are soft tissue injuries that can be mild, moderate, or severe and are graded, meaning they range from mild to severe.  The most severe cases may require emergent medical treatment due to pain or risk of fracture or vertebral dislocation.

What are some common causes of neck injuries?

The most common causes of neck injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Acts of violence
  • Sports and recreational injuries
  • Alcohol
  • Diseases

What Are the Symptoms of a Neck Injury?

Neck injuries can lead to spinal cord injury and permanent disability.  Symptoms of a neck injury often include:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • Oddly positioned or twisted neck or back

What Can You Do to Help?

There are several things you can do to help someone with a traumatic neck or back injury while waiting for emergency care to arrive, including:

  • Don’t move the injured person, which could cause spinal cord damage
  • Do not try to straighten the neck 
  • Do not remove a helmet
  • Call 911 or your local emergency assistance number
  • Keep the Person Still
    • Place Thick Towels on Both Sides of the Neck or Hold the Head and Neck
  • Provide basic first aid
    • Stop any bleeding
    • Make the person comfortable

How is a Neck Injury Treated?

Serious neck injuries require immediate medical attention, as they can lead to serious spinal damage or fatal complications, including paralysis.  When you come to The Emergency Center, the doctor will quickly provide treatment with personal care and make a plan for your recovery.