This week, the Chicago personal injury lawyers of Passen & Powell are examining the types of brain injury receiving attention through the struggles of some of our nation’s sports stars, as a part of our ongoing recognition of national Brain Injury Awareness Month. Today we examine malformations of the brain, including the cavernous malformation of the brain responsible for sidelining top Red Sox position prospect Ryan Westmoreland.
Cavernous malformations are a subset of a larger type of malformation known as vascular malformations or angiomas – groups of blood vessels in a particular location that have an abnormal structure, or are present in unusual numbers. This can cause altered blood flow in the area, which in turn causes mild to severe problems, depending on the extent and position of the malformation.
Most vascular malformations are present at birth. Others, however, form later in life, and can be caused by traumatic injury, radiation, or spinal cord injury. Where a brain injury is caused by the negligence or malpractice of another, it is important to contact a top-rated Chicago brain injury attorney to investigate the facts surrounding your injury, and ensure you are fully compensated for yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Although there has been no report yet on what caused Westmoreland’s cavernous malformation, we do know that he has suffered several injuries in the recent past, including a torn labrum (in his throwing shoulder), and a collision with an outfield wall which resulted in a fractured collarbone.
Vascular malformations occur not only in the brain, but in other parts of the body such as liver, rectum, kidney, eyes, nerves, and spinal cord. Malformations in the brain and spinal cord, however, have the greatest potential for serious symptoms and injury. In addition to cavernous malformations, the most commonly found types of malformations are capillary telangiectasias, venous malformations, and arteriovenous malformations.
Cavernous malformations such as Westmoreland’s cause “caverns” of blood that flow very slowly. These “caverns” are surrounded by blood vessels with weakened walls, which become distended due to a lack of muscle and elastin. In the brain, cavernous malformations are most often found in the white matter. Unlike some other types of vascular malformations, cavernous malformations of the brain (or CCMs, cerebral cavernous malformations), although located in the brain, do not contain brain tissue. Approximately 0.5% of the population has a CCM.
In children, CCMs most often occur between 0-2 years of age and 13-16 years of age, although scientists are unsure why these ages are most at risk. Cavernous malformations in the spinal cord are more common in adults than children.
Cavernous malformations are sometimes difficult to recognize and diagnose because, in many cases, they are asymptomatic (causing no symptoms). In fact, many such malformations are only discovered by doctors using an MRI exam to look for other, unrelated, conditions.
In other cases, however – such as Westmoreland’s – cavernous malformations can cause mild to serious symptoms. Westmoreland himself was diagnosed after leaving training camp due to headaches and numbness. Other types of brain injury, like stroke, cause a more dramatic onset of symptoms. Cavernous malformations, by contrast, come on more gradually. Additionally, pregnancy can cause symptoms to begin or worsen because pregnancy causes increased blood volume and flow. Symptoms of any kind of vascular malformation can include:
• A pulsing noise in the head (pulsatile tinnitus)
• Weakness or numbness that progressively worsens
If the malformation bleeds, it can result in the sudden onset of symptoms much like a stroke. Small-scale bleeding, or microhemorrhages, unlike larger bleeds, often does not cause noticeable symptoms. This can cause the development of new malformed vessels, however, and can adversely affect a victim’s long-term prognosis and ability to function. The symptoms of bleeding in the brain include:
• Sudden, severe headache
• Weakness or numbness
• Vision loss
• Difficulty speaking
• Inability to understand others
• Severe unsteadiness
A bleeding brain, whether caused by a malformation or otherwise, is a dangerous, life-threatening condition and requires immediate, emergency medical attention. If you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.
If you have suffered a malformation of the brain, only experienced professionals can determine whether your condition was congenital, or caused by trauma. Further, if your condition was the result of injury sustained due to the negligence of others, you may have a cause of action. A leading Chicago brain injury lawyer can help you to analyze your particular condition, and whether you can seek recovery.
For a free consultation with one of the top Chicago personal injury lawyers at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.