What Is a Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury?

MRI of the brain

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Each year, an estimated 1.5 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury. While most people can recover, severe cases often result in permanent brain damage or death. Some brain injuries are diffuse, meaning they cause damage throughout the brain, and some only affect parts of the brain where the impact occurred. These can be called "coup" injuries, "contrecoup" injuries, or a combination of the two.

What Is a Coup-Contrecoup Injury?

Blunt force trauma to the head often results in bruising and internal bleeding in the brain, which can cause varying levels of brain damage that may or may not become permanent. There are three terms used to describe the location of a brain injury concerning the point of impact:

  • Coup (pronounced "coo"): French for "blow," this type of injury causes damage on the side of the head where the impact occurred. This occurs when the brain is violently jerked toward the site of the blow, which most often happens when a stationary head is struck by a moving object.
  • Contrecoup (pronounced "contra coo"): French for "counterblow" or "backlash," this type of injury causes damage on the side of the head, usually opposite the site of the blow. This happens if the brain is thrown away from the site of impact rather than toward it, which usually occurs when a moving head strikes a stationary object.
  • Coup-contrecoup: This brain injury occurs on two sides of the head. It's caused by the brain being thrown forward toward the site of impact and then bouncing backward and hitting the skull.

These types of injuries can occur as a result of a fall, motor vehicle accident, sports injury, or violent assault. Common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • loss of consciousness/coma
  • confusion
  • loss of balance
  • slurred speech
  • nausea
  • blurred vision
  • death

Is a Coup-Contrecoup Injury More Dangerous Than Other Types of Brain Injury?

While each brain injury is different, any accident that causes damage to multiple areas of the brain will usually be more severe than an injury that only affects a single location. Because of this, coup-contrecoup injuries tend to be some of the most difficult to recover from, particularly if it's not realized right away that multiple areas of the brain have been affected. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment represent an accident victim's best chance for survival and a full or partial recovery.

How Is a Coup-Contrecoup Injury Treated?

Injuries to the brain, even if they seem minor, can have serious consequences. Even a mild concussion can turn deadly if another head injury is sustained before the brain has healed. Brain injuries can cause bleeding and swelling within the brain and problems with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as the brain's "cushion" within the skull. Even if symptoms seem mild, such as just a few minutes of disorientation and nausea, immediate care is essential to ensure that any further damage is prevented.

Treatment for this type of brain injury depends upon the injury's severity and what areas of the brain are affected. Close monitoring and repeated CT scans (or other suitable imaging scans) are often indicated for brain damage that doesn't require immediate surgical intervention. Medications to reduce swelling and pressure within the brain and drugs to treat or prevent seizures are often given as well.

What Can Happen if This Type of Brain Injury is Misdiagnosed?

Most people are aware that every minute counts when it comes to treating a stroke, but this is true for every type of brain injury. If the signs of brain injury are missed by hospital staff, diagnosed as something else, or if the injury is more severe than initially assumed, any further damage caused by unchecked bleeding and swelling within the brain can be catastrophic. Because of this, it's essential that all damaged areas of the brain are identified early and treated appropriately.

Do You Suspect That Your Loved One's Brain Damage Wasn't Treated Appropriately?

If you have any reason to believe that your own or your loved one's brain injury wasn't treated correctly, then you must seek out a qualified attorney who can help you get a second opinion and discuss how you should proceed. When it comes to a coup-contrecoup brain injury, a doctor's negligence to diagnose or treat quickly can result in severe, permanent brain damage or death. In most cases, Pennsylvania only gives you two years to file a medical malpractice claim, and these types of cases can often be difficult to prove, so it's important to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

At Ross Feller Casey, we believe that victims deserve to be heard. Our brain injury attorneys have the knowledge and the experience needed to get the compensation you and your family deserve, and we have the track record to prove it. With more than 50 $10-million-plus verdicts and settlements, and a total of over $3 billion recovered on behalf of our clients, we know what it takes to get results.

Our elite team of Ivy League-trained doctor-lawyers understands that recovery doesn't end when you leave the hospital. We will fight to ensure that you and your family are compensated for the pain and suffering you've already endured, along with the cost of any medical bills, therapy, lost wages, and whatever else may happen in the future.

If a doctor's negligence resulted in serious harm or death, contact us today for a free consultation. Ross Feller Casey handles all cases on a contingency basis, so you will never pay a thing until a financial recovery is made in your case.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.