1. What do medical personnel do to save the life of a person with a head injury?

Most people who have life-threatening brain injuries (regardless of cause) lose consciousness. Emergency medical treatment is focused on airway, breathing, and circulation (known as the "ABC's") because these basic functions must be addressed first for your survival. Airway: When you are unconscious, you may not realize that you cannot breathe. There may be food or other solid material in your mouth that interferes with your ability to breathe, or your tongue may block your airway. These obstructions must be removed in order for you to get air. If they are not, you may suffer irreversible brain injury and die, even though your brain was trying to get you to breathe.

Breathing: A brain injury may result in severe enough brain damage to affect your ability to breathe on your own. The brain automatically senses when and how often we need to breathe, and serious brain injury may interfere with the brain's interpretation of "need-to-breathe" signals from the rest of the body. Because of this, most head-injured people need to have a tube inserted into through the mouth or nose into the lungs so that a ventilator can be used. The ventilator pumps oxygen into your lungs and allows carbon dioxide to escape. Without this important help, many patients would die from their brain injury almost immediately.

Circulation: Severe brain injury may cause a reflex reaction in the body that initially causes the blood pressure to be very high and the heart rate to be very slow. This is often followed by a collapse of the blood pressure. Drugs may need to be given to help the heart generate a more normal blood pressure. Without this artificial boost, the low blood pressure may lead to further damage if not enough blood and oxygen reach the brain.

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