Acquired Brain Injury: When a headache is something more

18 – 22 May 2015 marks acquired brain injury (ABI) week.

Recent research by Headway, a leading charity dealing with those affected by Head injury confirmed ;

• Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is admitted to hospital with an ABI
• Every 3 minutes someone in the UK is admitted to hospital with a head injury
• Every 4 minutes someone in the UK is admitted to hospital with a stroke.

The number of strokes in the UK is increasing. A longstanding government campaign raised awareness of the need to act F.A.S.T when starting with a stroke. The campaign highlighted the initial symptoms of a stroke

F Face : Has the face fallen on one side?
A Arms : Can they raise both arms?
S Speech: Is speech slurred?
T Time: Call 999 quickly if any of these symptoms are seen

However not all strokes present with these symptoms.

One type of stroke, a subarachnoid haemorrhage is caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. It is a serious and potentially life threatening condition.
The main symptom is a sudden and very sever headache often a blinding pain, often described as being like something never experienced before.

Other symptoms can include:
• Blinding headache
• Stiff neck
• Double or blurred vision
• Nausea and sensitivity to light
• Classic stroke symptoms

Whilst it is not always known what caused a subarachnoid haemorrhage, certain factors can increase the risk, such as
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• Alcohol

The condition which is more common in people between the ages of 40 – 70 and which tends to affect women slightly more than men is caused when blood vessels in the brain burst.

Diagnosis is often confirmed by
• Examination and symptoms
• Careful patient history
• CT scan
• Lumbar puncture

Treatment options are available, but medical practitioners explain the need to act quickly. Treatment can include:
• Surgery – if the bleeding is caused by an aneurysm
• Medication - to stop any secondary complications of oxygen starvation to the brain.
• Pain relief
• Coiling or Neurosurgical clipping

It is important to act quickly and seek urgent medical attention.

Carlos Lopez, head of the Vincents clinical negligence team stated, “ a subarachnoid haemorrhage whilst rare, is something which sadly can be missed by GP and A&E specialist. Between 2012 – 2013, 11,000 people in the UK attended hospital with a bleed. It’s important to explain carefully the nature of the headache and, if there are any concerns a CT scan should be performed. I have acted for clients where there has been a failure to diagnose the condition and dismiss the patient with a simple diagnosis of a headache. ”

If you have been affected by a failure to diagnose a stroke or suffered the death of a relative through medical negligence, call our specialist and expert clinical negligence team on 0800 310 2000.