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The structural basis of moderate disability after traumatic brain damage

Abstract

The objective was to discover the nature of brain damage in survivors of head injury who are left with moderate disability. Macroscopic and microscopic examination was carried out on the brains of 20 persons who had died long after a head injury that had been treated in a neurosurgical unit. All had become independent but had various disabilities (moderate disability on the Glasgow outcome scale) Most deaths had been sudden, which had led to their referral from forensic pathologists. Post-traumatic epilepsy was a feature in 75%. An intracranial haematoma had been evacuated in 75%, and in 11 of the 15 with epilepsy. Diffuse axonal injury was found in six patients, five of the mildest type (grade 1) and one of grade 2. No patient had diffuse thalamic damage but one had a small focal ischaemic lesion in the thalamus. No patient had severe ischaemic brain damage, but three had moderate lesions which were bilateral in only one. No patient had severe cortical contusions. In conclusion, the dominant lesion was focal damage from an evacuated intracranial haematoma. Severe diffuse damage was not found, with diffuse axonal injury only mild and thalamic damage in only one patient.

  • head injury
  • disability
  • neuropathology

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