Traumatic strokes and road accidents

My name is Matt Tuff. I am a Senior Associate solicitor in the Major Trauma Department at Moore Barlow. Today I will be talking about the subject of traumatic strokes and road accidents (also known as cerebro-vascular accidents). 

High speed road accidents

Although relatively rare, it is not unknown for people involved in high velocity road accidents to suffer traumatic strokes. If the force of impact causes the head to be thrown back, this can lead to a ‘shearing force’ that severs an artery such as the carotid artery in the neck.   

A stroke occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the brain. Broadly speaking, there are 2 main types of stroke – haemorrhagic stroke (which occurs when a blood vessel in or near the brain ruptures or leaks) and ischaemic stroke (when blood vessels become narrowed or blocked). Although both of these can occur in the context of a road accident, haemorrhagic strokes are more common here. 

Air bags and traumatic strokes

There have been very occasional reported cases of people suffering carotid artery dissection due to airbag deployment in a road accident. An airbag can, again, lead to sudden, forced neck extension (forcing back of the head and neck), which could sever the artery. It should be emphasised that this very rare and that airbags prevent far more injuries than they cause. 

The most common mechanism for traumatic stroke in my experience is where cyclists or motorcyclists are involved in high-speed road accidents and thrown a considerable distance by the impact. 

Delayed onset of traumatic stroke symptoms

Initially the patients may not demonstrate any signs or symptoms from the artery dissection. There are reported cases where patients were symptom free for the first 24 hours, before suffering sudden neurological symptoms, such as confusion and slurred speech, or even collapse.  

Symptoms and long term effects of a traumatic stroke

Strokes can lead to a myriad of symptoms that may differ from one person to another.  There may be problems with speech, memory, attention, reasoning and taking in information. A stroke survivor may have weakness, generally on one side of the body. Excessive fatigue is a common problem. 

Rehabilitation from a traumatic stroke

As with any severe injury, it is extremely important that the patient has early access to high quality rehabilitation. As well as having experience of traumatic stroke injuries, we at Moore Barlow place a very high priority on securing rehabilitation for our clients. 

In any personal injury case, one of the most important steps is to obtain evidence from independent medical experts, in order to document the injuries, make any further treatment recommendations and provide a prognosis. The relevant medical expert for a stroke would normally be a vascular neurologist. 

How Moore Barlow can help

If you have any questions on this topic do not hesitate to contact me, Matt Tuff, Senior Associate in the Major Trauma Service at Moore Barlow.