Brain Injuries: Understanding Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

by ShelbyW on November 24, 2012

Traumatic brain injuries are never an easy thing to deal with, both for the person who suffers such an injury and their loved ones. Even more difficult, however, is brain trauma that results in a diffuse axonal injury, or DAI. People who suffer a diffuse axonal injury may face special challenges that others will not, and some of the consequences can be lifelong.

Our brain injury attorneys tell us that DAI is one of the most common types of brain injuries. A diffuse axonal injury is considered to be a traumatic brain injury, meaning that the injury occurs in a large area of the brain. A DAI often results in lesions forming within the white matter of the brain, and these lesions can range in size from one millimeter to 15 millimeters in diameter. Once these lesions form and grow, the brain is unable to send the correct neural signals, resulting in improper brain function and coma.

What Causes DAI?

While some brain injuries are caused by a direct impact to the head, DAI is actually caused by extreme acceleration or deceleration. People with DAIs typically get them from vehicle accidents, and DAIs are one of the main components in shaken baby syndrome. When the brain is exposed to extreme shifts in acceleration or deceleration, neural processes known as axons can be disrupted. When this happens, the white matter in the brain that is made up of tracts of axons can be damaged by other tissue sliding over it.

The Symptoms of Diffuse Axonal Injuries

People who suffer from a DAI may experience unconsciousness or coma. In many cases, a persistent vegetative state will develop, and the injured person will be confined to a bed for life. When a DAI is first experienced, the injured individual may show no immediate signs or symptoms, and many will show up normal on a CT scan. Over time, however, as lesions form, the effects of a DAI will become more apparent, both in symptoms and through CT scans.

What is the Prognosis for Sufferers?

As mentioned, most people who experience a DAI will slip into a coma or exist in a persistent vegetative state. Unfortunately, few treatment options exist, and the ones that are available, such as calcium influx therapy, are not very effective. In the vast majority of cases, even those with mild DAIs will require lifelong care at home or in a nursing facility. Individuals who have suffered severe DAIs will more often than not, be confined to a hospital bed in an unconscious state.

If you have a loved one who has been affected by a DAI, you probably already know the difficulties you both face. What you may not know, however, is that you may be able to seek relief in court for the injuries your loved one has sustained. A brain injury lawyer may be able to help you and your loved one get compensation to help cover costs associated with the long-term care your loved one needs, as long as the injury occurred in an accident.

Kelly Kovacic is a paralegal and contributing author for the brain injury attorneys at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene in South Florida, who have handled hundreds of brain injury cases. Even if you are not the type of person to sue, if your loved one has suffered from a DAI, you may be entitled to recoup the costs of their long term care. Diffuse axonal injuries are one of the most common serious brain injuries and occur in almost half of all traumatic head injuries.

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