Diffuse Axonal Injury, or DAI for short, is a catastrophic brain injury caused by car accidents in some instances. Anyone diagnosed with a DAI is clinging to life. Approximately 90 percent of DAI victims never regain consciousness and are in a vegetative coma. The 10 percent who do regain consciousness and survive the coma will require a lifetime of support because they will be cognitively and physically impaired. The common understating of a DAI is shifting. Some neurologists believe that concussions are low-grade DAI because concussions are diffuse injuries in nature, rather than focal injuries.
The victim of a DAI experiences injury to all parts of the brain, but is commonly found in the “white” matter of the brain. DAIs affect the brain stem, corpus callosum (which is the connective tissue found between the left and right hemisphere of the brain), and the larger brain surface as well. The presence of a DAI is typically indicated by a lesion on the white matter of the brain. Lesions can only be diagnosed with the assistance of diagnostic imaging like MRIs and CT-Scans.
The separation of the brain’s nerve fibers called axons is another indication of DAI. Imaging will likely show that the brain appears to be stretched and torn because of the presence of bleeding on the brain, especially in the regions of the corpus callosum or cerebral cortex.
The brain matter starts to decay from the injury. Neurologists once opined that the decaying axons were caused by the physical manipulation of the brain from the initial trauma. However, doctors now believe that chemical reactions in the brain started by the traumatic event cause tears and separation. The decaying of brain matter does not occur instantly.
Treatment for a DAI is complicated. Doctors can use a treatment with a compound called polyethylene glycol to seal the tears in the destroyed nerve fibers.
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