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A gentleman with a subtle brain injury does the gardening with his wife

When you think of a brain injury, you are likely to think it has been caused by a trauma or injury to the head, but this isn’t always the case.

Some brain injuries can also be caused by an infection, a tumour, oxygen deprivation, degenerative disorder or nutritional disorder. Someone with a subtle brain injury might not outwardly seem to have an injury at all. So how would you know if you or a loved one has a subtle brain injury?

What are the symptoms of a subtle brain injury?

A person who has suffered a subtle brain injury may complain of various symptoms which have suddenly appeared, without explanation. A medical professional may carry out scans and tests, which all appear normal, but the person may present with some/all, of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches;
  • Restlessness;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Anger, anxiety, depression, loss of motivation, irritability and mood swings;
  • Dizziness and balance issues;
  • Fatigue, which can often be severe;
  • Sexual difficulties;
  • Trouble concentrating and difficulties with organisation, planning, memory, problem-solving and processing information;
  • Problems with communication.

Anatomy of the brain and the impact of a subtle brain injury

The brain is made up of a number of different parts, each responsible for a different aspect of your behaviour and personality:

  • Frontal lobe – responsible for executive functions, thinking, organising and problem solving, as well as emotional and behaviour controls;
  • Motor cortex – controls movement;
  • Sensory cortex – responsible for sensations;
  • Parietal lobe – responsible for perception, making sense of the world, arithmetic and spelling;
  • Occipital lobe – controls your vision; and
  • Temporal lobe – memory, understanding and language.

An injury or abnormality to any part of the brain can cause a change in personality, behaviour or physical health.

Investigations to determine the cause of a subtle brain injury

It may not be easy to identify the cause of a subtle brain injury. It is, however, vital to find and treat the cause as all too often, by the time the source of the subtle brain injury is found, irreparable damage has been caused.

Your medical team may order CT scans or an MRI but, with subtle brain injuries, there is a possibility these scans will not show any abnormality. Additionally, as symptoms of a subtle brain injury often overlap with another condition, it can take longer and be harder to identify the cause.

Misdiagnosis of a subtle brain injury can lead to delays in treating the cause of the brain injury. These delays can then cause further complications, such as with hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a condition where an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in the brain. This build-up of fluid leads to an increase in pressure on the brain which and if left untreated, can cause lasting damage. Symptoms include headaches, loss of coordination or balance, vomiting, bladder control problems, impaired vision and changes in concentration or memory. As these symptoms share similar characteristics to Alzheimer’s and dementia, they can be wrongly dismissed as a normal part of ageing in older patients. Without an appropriate referral to a neurologist or neurosurgeon, hydrocephalus may be missed or misdiagnosed.

Misdiagnosing hydrocephalus and the ensuing delay increases the risk of serious injury as the necessary steps to relieve the symptoms may not be taken at a vital time, resulting in an avoidable brain injury.

How Brain Injury Group can help

A subtle brain injury may occur even with the best possible treatment. However, delays and failure to diagnose or treat the underlying cause can result in a more severe injury. The impact of which can be life-changing for the individual and their family.

If you have concerns about care and treatment received, we can connect you with a Brain Injury Group recommended lawyer for a free, no-obligation chat. Every lawyer with the Brain Injury Group specialises in assisting people affected by brain injury. They will be able to advise on any potential brain injury claim and the subsequent process. A claim for compensation following a brain injury will not only compensate for the injury itself but could also help with rehabilitation and provide interim payments.

Some of the things compensation could assist with, include:

  • Early access to specialised and tailored rehabilitation;
  • Day to day living expenses;
  • Loss of earnings;
  • Private medical treatment;
  • Therapies;
  • Equipment/aids;
  • Any adaptations that may be needed to your property as a result of a brain injury.

Brain Injury Group member law firms have access to a full range of services, advisers and specialists including welfare benefits advisers, case managers, education lawyers, Court of Protection specialists and a whole range of other legal and welfare advice. Having brain injury specialist solicitors and brain injury focused support services ensures clients receive a joined-up service to help rebuild lives following a brain injury.

Speak to someone about a subtle brain injury

To speak to your closest brain injury expert solicitor, visit our Brain Injury Group member firm directory or email

With thanks to…

This article has been produced with Brain Injury Group member law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, a leading law firm who specialise in complex claims involving adults and children with brain injuries.

Based in London, Bolt Burdon Kemp support clients nationwide. Find full details here –

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