The brain stem is a portion of the brain that is connected to the nerves that run down the spinal cord. It is located toward the back of the brain. The brain stem is the main connective trunk of tissue that delivers signals between the brain and the rest of the body. 

In humans, the brain stem controls both voluntary and involuntary bodily functions. Breathing, digestion, and the heartbeat are all controlled by regions in the brain stem.

Injuries to the brain stem can be very dangerous. They can result in long-lasting and devastating effects for victims. If you have experienced a brain stem injury because of someone else’s negligent actions, contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

In the following post, we will explore the function of the brain stem and the consequences of brain stem injuries. 

The Functions of the Brain Stem

As we mentioned above, the brain stem is the primary point of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Because of this, it is vital to the basic functions of many physiological systems and organs.

The brain stem is necessary for the following physiological functions:

  • Heartbeat
  • Regulation of the circulatory system
  • Body temperature control and regulation
  • Voluntary and involuntary breathing
  • Swallowing
  • Conscious awareness (normal psychological functioning)

The brain stem reports information to the other regions in the brain when it enters from the various systems throughout the body. Your brain gains access to important signals through the functioning of the brain stem, which communicates with many of your vital organs.

Brain Stem Regions

There are three primary regions of the brain stem:  The pons, the midbrain, and the medulla oblongata. These three areas work cooperatively to control and regulate many of the human body’s biological systems. Each of the three brain stem regions plays a role in different bodily functions.

The Pons

The pons is the uppermost region of the brain stem. This region shares responsibility for controlling the respiratory system, balance and equilibrium, swallowing, hearing, taste, voluntary and involuntary eye movements, facial muscle control, bladder function, and posture. If the pons is damaged, one or more of these bodily functions is likely to become impaired.

The Midbrain

The midbrain is the middle region of the brain stem. It is responsible for the functioning of the visual system, processing auditory information, certain voluntary bodily movements, regulation of sleep, and body temperature. Damage to the midbrain can result in dangerous impairments for the victim.

The Medulla Oblongata

The medulla oblongata is located at the base of the brain stem. This pillar-like region handles several of the basic functions for the autonomic nervous system. Specifically, the medulla oblongata controls the functions of the lungs and heart. Additionally, this region helps to regulate breathing, blood acidity levels, and a wide range of involuntary reflexes, including vomiting, sneezing, and coughing.

Victims who have suffered damage to one or more of their brain stem regions can experience a wide range of symptoms and impairments. While some impairments may be minor or temporary, others can be severe and long-term. In many cases, brain stem injuries result in lifelong symptoms and disabilities.

If you have sustained a brain stem injury in an accident someone else caused, you have the legal right to seek financial recovery. Schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in order to secure the compensation you are owed.

Types of Brain Stem Injuries

Many types of injuries can cause damage to the three regions of the brain stem. For example, bodily trauma might cause the spinal cord to sustain damage or become fully severed. The ligaments near the spinal cord could be torn by a forceful impact. In some cases, the vertebrae of the spinal column will slip out of place or become hyperextended.

These kinds of brain stem injuries can occur in the context of different types of accidents. Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other types of collisions are some of the most common causes of brain stem injuries. In order to reduce the chances for this type of damage, motorists should drive safely and always use seat belts and helmets.

Falling accidents are also a leading cause of brain stem injuries. Falling from an extreme height makes brain stem injuries much more likely. For instance, victims who have fallen from a window, tree, ladder, or rooftop should have a thorough medical examination immediately.

Tragically, young children are especially vulnerable to brain stem injuries when engaging in sports and other physical activities. Head trauma is a common cause of brain stem injuries when children suffer from falling accidents. Whether they are climbing on playground equipment, skateboarding, or bicycling, protective gear is vital for children.

If your child has been injured, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to review the circumstances of your case.

Symptoms of Brain Stem Injuries 

As we discussed above, the three regions of the brain stem are necessary for maintaining many of our bodily systems. Because of this, injuries to the brain stem may cause a wide variety of symptoms and difficulties. 

These include:

  • Speech impairment
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sleep apnea
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Loss of smell
  • Inability to swallow
  • Unexpected personality changes
  • Memory loss
  • Unconsciousness
  • Fixed pupils
  • Partial or total paralysis
  • Coma
  • Lung and heart failure (these symptoms can result in death)

Brain stem injuries can cause other symptoms, as well. You should never diagnose these symptoms by yourself. If you experience any of these indicators, seek immediate medical care. In the case of a brain stem injury, you may require emergency surgery or other time-sensitive treatments.

Brain Stem Injury Treatments

Because damage to the brain stem can vary widely, your physician may recommend a range of treatments. If your brain stem has suffered damage because of a blood clot (brain stem stroke), you may need emergency surgery.

If you require neurosurgery as the result of your brain stem injury, there are many therapies that might be necessary to facilitate the recovery process. For instance:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Psychological and Emotional Counseling

Because it is positioned deep within the posterior of the brain, fully restorative treatments for brain stem injuries are rare. After seeking medical care, it is important to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer to seek the compensation you are due.