Head injuries often incapacitate the victims to the point where they can’t report what happened to first responders. Often their friends and family members who were with them when the injury occurred will fill in the paramedics or doctors about what happened.
But at the same time, the victim’s own body often is telling the medical professionals some of the things they need to know to correctly diagnose and treat the injured victim. There are two clear indications that a traumatic brain injury has occurred — decorticate and decerebrate posturing.
Both are bad, but of the two, decerebrate posturing is considered to be worse. Here’s how the two conditions present in victims and how to tell them apart.
Decorticate posturing occurs in the moments after a hit to the head and is indicative of damage to the neural path between the brain and spinal cord. The victim’s arms will be bent and stiffened, often clenched in a fist. The arms may settle after a few seconds on their chest in a bent position.
Decerebrate posturing is a sign of severe injury to the victim’s brain stem and typically also involves the lower limbs and feet. The legs are straight and stiff with the toes pointed down. The arms are held to the side and turn awkwardly in toward the body.
Any person with a head injury who displays these types of posturing symptoms needs immediate medical assistance. Even if first responders arrive quickly, the person will likely never recover fully. They may live out their days in a long-term care facility for brain injury patients because they will require 24/7 care for the rest of their lives.
As you can imagine, this type of care is very costly. It may be necessary to take legal action against the person who caused the victim to suffer the catastrophic brain injury.