Brain injury awareness month: the impact of a subtle brain injury

21 March 2024

To mark brain injury awareness month, Pam Westwood discusses the impact of a subtle brain injury and how compensation can help set up a rehabilitation package.

Shoosmiths’ serious injury team sadly regularly deals with brain injury cases and recognises the importance of Brain Injury Awareness Month.

This period is dedicated to raising awareness about the wide spectrum of brain injuries, which can range from severe, traumatic brain injuries to more subtle injuries, how to prevent such injuries and how to support people affected and their families.

We often think of those who have suffered a brain injury as needing full time nursing care. Whilst that can unfortunately be true for people who have suffered a serious brain injury, there are many who have a suffered a more subtle brain injury and may not initially be aware that they have any long-term problems. Indeed, there may not be any outward signs of a physical disability and, although these types of brain injuries are frequently referred to as ‘subtle’ brain injuries, they can, and often do, still have a life-changing impact. People with a subtle brain injury may struggle on a day-to-day basis with things like memory problems, headaches, mood and personality changes, fatigue, becoming withdrawn, finding it difficult to concentrate and be motivated, and not being able to work or to integrate in society. This can lead to the need for care and support.

We think it is important that health professionals recognise the signs of a subtle brain injury as they often go undetected, which means individuals lack appropriate support and rehabilitation.

Our client’s story

Our specialist medical negligence solicitors are currently acting for a lady in her early forties who suffered a brain injury because of hospital failures to identify and treat abnormal blood vessels in her brain. The hospital knew these abnormal blood vessels were there and that they could be treated, but they wrongly told our client she was unlikely to have any problems and to leave things as they were.

However, one evening at home our client had a severe headache and collapsed on the floor. Her husband called 999 and she was rushed to hospital where brain scans showed that the abnormal vessels had burst and she had suffered a bleed on the brain, referred to as an intraventricular haemorrhage, and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid that creates pressure in the brain). It was a critical situation, and she was lucky to survive. However, shortly after being discharged home, her family noticed that she was very forgetful and kept repeating herself.

She instructed Shoosmiths to investigate her claim and the hospital have admitted that they should have treated the blood vessels, and that if they had done, she would not have suffered the bleed on the brain and the build up of fluid.

Our client has no physical signs of an injury and does not need nursing care, but by delving deeper into her circumstances, we found out that she had never been referred for any follow up, nor any therapy or rehabilitation after coming out of hospital. It was only by taking careful details from her and her family, that it became apparent she probably had suffered a subtle brain injury and it had not been picked up. Our client is too scared to go out of the house by herself, she has memory problems and has on occasion left the front door open at night before her husband realised, and has left the deep fat fryer on, something that could have been fatal for the whole family. Her personality has also changed, she no longer drives, and she gets frequent headaches.

Senior Associate, Pam Westwood, who is acting for our client, comments:

“It’s awful that this lady was effectively sent home without any follow up after she had suffered a brain haemorrhage. Her brain scans showed that the abnormal blood vessels had been treated after the bleed, and because she had no physical signs of a problem, it was simply presumed that everything was fine. Not only did the hospital fail her by not treating the abnormal blood vessels before they caused a haemorrhage, but she was also failed again when nobody picked up on her subtle brain injury.

We have been able to help our client by getting her seen by the appropriate specialists to get her brain injury recognised so that we can work towards getting a rehabilitation programme in place for her and compensation to help give her a level of normality in her life.

I think it's important that health professionals are trained to recognise the signs of a more subtle brain injury so that they are not overlooked, and people get appropriate help and don’t go under the radar.”



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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