Quick Treatment Vital for Head Trauma

Soon kids everywhere will hop on their bikes and take off. Before they do, remember a most important accessory - a bike helment.

Topeka Cotton-O'Neil Neurosurgeon Dr. Matt Wills says it's not all that hard to suffer a head injury. He says a fall can be enough to trigger bleeding on the brain and it can happen with a child on a bicycle or even falling from a tall stool.

It's also what happened recently to actress Natasha Richardson in a skiing accident, claiming her life.

Dr. Wills says there are a lot of vessels inside our head. He says a fall can cut or tear them, or cause a hematoma or bruise - a pooling of blood in the small space between our skull and our brain. He says if that hematoma expands, it fills the space and begins to compress the brain. Eventually, a person might lose consciousness or have difficulty breathing. As pressure builds up, it kills tissue and can lead to death.

Usually, Dr. Wills says, a person will show signs they need medical attention. He says a person should see a doctor if there's a loss of consciousness, altered consciousness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting or a significant laceration of the scalp.

Immediate attention is key. Stormont-Vail in Topeka has expanded its trauma staff to include a neurosurgeon on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Previously, if a neurosurgeon wasn't available, a patient would be transferred to Kansas City. Dr. Wills says that can be a risk in a situation where the timing of surgery can make a difference between life, permanent disability or death.

In addition to wearing helmets, Dr. Wills says people should avoid mixing alcohol with activities that carry a risk of fall or accidents, like racing, biking, skateboarding or rock climbing.

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