A pediatric neurosurgeon works to mitigate or reverse damage caused by traumatic brain injury in children. That is why many pediatricians and trauma doctors will quickly refer young patients that suffer serious head injuries to these specialists.
Traumatic brain injury in children
Not every trauma to the head results in traumatic brain injury, but parents and caregivers should err on the side of caution. Some injuries are serious enough to require emergency medical attention. In such situations, a trauma doctor will check for brain injury and refer the patient as soon as they have a diagnosis.
Other times, traumatic brain injury can happen as a result of a seemingly minor fall or blow. If this happens to an infant or toddler, the child will be unable to articulate their pain and discomfort. It would be up to the caregiver to observe changes in the child’s behavior and overall state after a fall or knock to the head. Older children will be able to express persistent pain and other obvious symptoms of brain injury.
If a child changes after a ‘minor’ blow to the head, a caregiver should see a pediatric doctor, who will rule out or confirm brain injury. Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor may refer the child to a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Why a pediatric neurosurgeon might need to create a custom treatment plan
Traumatic brain injury is not a cookie-cutter condition like the flu or a broken bone. There are different types and degrees of traumatic brain injury. Also, different patients are affected in different ways, depending on factors like age, health status before the injury, the extent of the trauma and treatment received before the neurosurgeon steps in.
All these variations mean that pediatric neurosurgeons craft treatment plans that meet a patient’s specific needs. Still, there are general guidelines that neurosurgeons follow when treating young patients.
A general guideline for immediate (first-line) care for traumatic brain injury
In broad strokes, a pediatric neurosurgeon will first deal with the more urgent and life-threatening aspects of the injury. In most cases of traumatic brain injury, the neurosurgeon will:
- Work with other physicians to stabilize the patient to ensure good blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, especially when the patient’s injuries extend to other parts of the body
- Ensure oxygen supply to the brain
- Deal with any bleeding in the brain
- In case of swelling or fluid buildup, the pediatric neurosurgeon will relieve intracranial pressure using one of several methods
Second-line treatment for pediatric traumatic brain injury
Once the patient is stable, a pediatric neurosurgeon is able to proceed with less conservative treatments. If the patient needs surgical correction of the injury, then the neurosurgeon will perform the least invasive surgery that will do the patient the most good.
A second and equally important aspect of treatment for pediatric brain treatment involves waiting for the brain to heal. The parents and neurosurgeon will have to wait, whether or not corrective brain surgery was needed for the child. Children can be resilient, so depending on the severity of the initial injury, the brain can heal itself to some extent, or even completely.
Longer-term (therapeutic) treatment for pediatric brain injury
After the brain heals, a pediatric neurosurgeon will collaborate with a team of therapists. The goal of this collaboration is to restore function to the brain and the body parts affected by the injury. Depending on the brain injury, a young patient may need rehabilitation that includes speech therapy, physiotherapy and measures to improve cognitive ability.
A pediatric neurosurgeon will help you and your child through a trying time
The brain of a child is physically different from that of an adult. It is continually changing as it grows. It also absorbs (and recovers from) trauma differently than an adult brain. For this reason, you need a pediatric neurosurgeon to help your child recover from traumatic brain injury. Get in touch to find out how your pediatric neurosurgeon can walk with you and your child on the road to recovery.
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