Intimate Partner Violence

Need to Be Screened for TBI

When thinking about the range of injuries suffered through intimate partner violence, one’s mind doesn’t necessarily turn to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), and yet all too often that’s exactly what happens. This can happen in many ways including when a person is struck or suffers a blow to the head or is strangled.

Strangulation is one of the most common life-threatening injuries that can be experienced. Strangulation causes both oxygen to the brain to be cut off (anoxia) and microhemorrhages (numerous small brain bleeds) to occur.

Dr. Katheryn Laughon, who specializes in treating those who experience ntimate partner violence, notes that the combination of anoxia and micro hemorrhaging create serious brain injury. “Add the fact that these are usually not one-time occurrences like, say, a sports concussion, but are multiple, traumatic brain injuries. These injuries need to be promptly identified and treated.”

Women who are strangled by their partners are often attacked multiple times, according to Dr. Laughon. And then in addition to the strangulation, the person may suffer repeated blows to the head while being held around the neck and slammed up against a wall or bookcase. This is, obviously, a direct cause of concussion or worse.

Dr. Laughon urges women to seek immediate care at the hospital emergency department. “This is actually a potentially life-threatening event. We want to get imaging, either an MRI or CT scan, depending on what we think is going on, to rule out a slow bleed or a dissection or something more serious going on. We want to make sure that there’s someone checking on them for the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Dr. Laughon is particularly concerned because when seeking treatment, women may be so traumatized by what they have experienced that they will focus on the more obvious injuries such as black eyes, broken nose, broken bones, etc. It is critical that they be screened for a possible TBI.

“We need EMS providers, police and other first responders to encourage women to go to the hospital so they can be examined and screened to make sure they are physically okay, including neurologically. We want them to have all the information they need to know how to take care of themselves. Strangulation raises the possibility of more serious, deadly violence. We provide these women with resources and information so that they can take whatever steps they think are appropriate for them. “