The Different Types of Brain Injuries

Each brain injury is unique to the patient, but there are similarities between patients depending on the trauma inflicted on your head. Different symptoms can develop depending on the nature in which your head absorbed trauma, and understanding the way in which brains can be injured helps us chart a course for healing. Below, we take a closer look at the different types of traumatic brain injuries, and what you can expect from each.

Types Of Head Injuries

Below are some of the more common types of head injuries neurosurgeons see on a regular basis:


A concussion can be caused by a direct blow to the head or a violent force from an injury like whiplash. It is the most common type of brain injury, and it occurs when the brain receives trauma from impact or sudden movement change. This trauma can cause blood vessels in the brain to stretch and cranial nerves to become damaged. Sometimes the injury is associated with loss of consciousness, but you don’t have to go unconscious to suffer a concussion.

Concussion symptoms aren’t always visible on a diagnostic imaging test, so oftentimes they are diagnosed by looking for the absence of other issues, like brain bleeding or a skull fracture. More severe concussions are monitored to ensure a problematic blood clot doesn’t form. Healing can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of years depending on the location and severity of the concussion.


A contusion is a head injury that results from a direct impact to the head. These injuries involve a bruise (or bleeding) on the brain. Contusions are carefully monitored to ensure any swelling doesn’t put undue pressure on the brain. Large or severe contusions may need to be surgically addressed. This is typically done by removing part of the skull to give the brain plenty of room to swell and avoid pressure. Healing can take weeks or months, and in many cases occurs simultaneously with a concussion.


A coup-contrecoup is a more severe contusion injury in which a contusion occurs at both the site of the impact and on the opposite side of the brain. This type of injury happens when the force of the impact on the head is so great that is causes a contusion at the injury site, but it also is forceful enough to move the brain and cause it to slam against the opposite side of the skull, leading to a secondary contusion. These injuries are more common in motor vehicle accidents and with shaken baby syndrome, and can result in damage to axon bundles and blood vessels. Intracranial pressure can also increase. Doctors work to alleviate brain swelling and other symptoms to limit long-term brain damage.

Diffuse Axonal

This injury involves a shaking or strong rotation of the head. It occurs when an unmoving brain lags behind the movement of the skull, causing tearing of brain structures. If there is extensive nerve tearing, additional injury can result from the release of certain brain chemicals, and it can also affect the person’s ability to communicate. These injuries can lead to temporary or permanent brain damage, and symptoms vary based on the significance and location of the tearing. Surgeons work to salvage nerve pathways and reduce the long-term impact of the tearing.


Finally a penetration injury is oftentimes the most devastating of the different types of brain injury. As the name implies, it involves an object penetrating through the skull and into the brain. These injuries often involve serious damage to the brain as well as neurological tearing. Time is of the essence in penetration injuries to not only preserve as much brain function as possible, but to also save the person’s life. Penetration injuries typically have lifelong consequences.

For more information about different types of head injuries, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.

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