Diffuse axonal brain injury (DAI) is an injury to axons, a part of the nerve cells in the brain. As a result of the injury, brain cells may die, causing brain swelling, and increasing pressure within the skull. An increase in pressure may result in a decrease of blood supply to the brain.
This type of closed head injury can cause coma. Diffuse axonal injury typically causes loss of consciousness that lasts for more than 6 hours. Functions like movement, speech, and even those that support life are compromised.
This can be much more dangerous than an open head injury because of the tearing of the brain tissue and the potential for swelling. It occurs in about half of all cases of severe head trauma. It is called diffuse because this type of injury is widespread, affecting a larger area.
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Causes of Diffuse Axonal Injuries
DAI brain injury is caused by the movement of the brain within the skull.
This type of severe traumatic brain injury is most commonly sustained through motor vehicle accidents, following blows to an unsupported head.
Other causes can include:
• Auto Accidents
• Sports related accidents
• Shaken Baby syndrome
• A bomb blast or Military injury
Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury Symptoms
If an individual is unconscious for more than 6 hours, they could have experienced a diffuse axonal injury. Some may appear conscious and will have symptoms associated with the injury depending on which areas of the brain have been affected.
DAI can occur in every degree of severity from mild or moderate to very severe. Concussion may be a milder type of diffuse axonal injury.
Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is usually done to detect diffuse axonal injury.
The outcome is frequently coma, with over 90 percent of patients with severe DAI never regaining consciousness. Those who do recover often suffer from lasting impairments of memory and cognition.