Traumatic brain injuries are common in serious motor vehicle accidents. If you hit your head on your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, airbag or anything else, you may suffer a TBI. Your brain may also be vulnerable to a TBI during rapid vehicle deceleration, as your brain may smash into your skull even if your head does not collide with anything.
Because TBIs can range from moderate to severe, it is important to seek a medical evaluation after any blow to the head. This is true even if you do not have symptoms, as they may not appear for hours, days or weeks after your crash. You should also watch for a cerebrospinal fluid leak, which is a serious TBI complication.
The importance of cerebrospinal fluid
Your brain and spinal cord are some of the more sensitive parts of your body, so cerebrospinal fluid protects them from injury. This clear fluid also delivers nutrients to your nervous system and removes waste.
The danger of a cerebrospinal fluid leak
A cerebrospinal fluid leak is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency. If you develop a leak, your brain may sag inside your skull. You may also be susceptible to meningitis or other nervous system infections. In extreme cases, cerebrospinal fluid leaks may cause you to suffer a stroke, sustain brain damage or die.
The symptoms of a cerebrospinal fluid leak
If a TBI causes the membrane that holds your cerebrospinal fluid in place to rupture, fluid may pass into your ear canals or sinus cavities. Eventually, you may notice a clear fluid dripping from your nose or ears. You may also have a painful headache that worsens when you stand or sit upright.
Because of the potentially grave consequences of a cerebrospinal fluid leak, you may want to err on the side of caution. If you merely suspect you may be leaking this fluid, you should go to the emergency room immediately.