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Anytime, Anywhere: Brain Injuries Do Not Discriminate

Silver Cross Neurosurgeon Offers Tips to Detect a Brain Injury 

March 14, 2012 (New Lenox, IL)—March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. A brain injury can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. In fact, according to the National Brain Injury Association, 1.7 million people will sustain a brain injury each year.  An injury that happens in an instant can bring a lifetime of physical, cognitive and behavior challenges but early, equal and adequate access to care will greatly increase overall quality of life.

hurley tomAccording to the Centers for Disease and Control Injury Prevention Center, the leading causes of traumatic brain injury are falls, motor vehicle accidents and assault.  Brain injury can result in hospitalization or even death if not diagnosed and cared for appropriately.  Emergency personnel and other specialists typically determine the severity of a brain injury by using an assessment called the Glascow Coma Scale (GCS). The terms Mild Brain Injury, Moderate Brain Injury, and Severe Brain Injury are used to describe the level of initial injury in relation to the neurological severity caused to the brain.

Keep in mind that there is nothing “Mild” about a brain injury—the term “Mild” Brain injury is used to describe a level of neurological injury,” says Dr. Thomas Hurley, board certified neurosurgeon on staff at Silver Cross Hospital.   “Any injury to the brain is a real and serious medical condition.”

How Can I Tell? 

After an impact to the head, a person with a brain injury can experience a variety of symptoms. Dr. Hurley says common symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can include but are not limited to:

  • Spinal fluid (thin water-looking liquid) coming out of the ears or nose
  • Loss of consciousness; however, loss of consciousness may not occur in some concussion cases
  • Dilated (the black center of the eye is large and does not get smaller in light)or unequal size of pupils
  • Vision changes (blurred vision or seeing double, not able to tolerate bright light, loss of eye movement, blindness)
  • Dizziness, balance problems
  • Respiratory failure (not breathing)
  • Coma (not alert and unable to respond to others) or semicomatose state
  • Paralysis, difficulty moving body parts, weakness, poor coordination
  • Slow pulse
  • Slow breathing rate, with an increase in blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (sluggish, sleepy, gets tired easily)
  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears, or changes in ability to hear
  • Difficulty with thinking skills (difficulty “thinking straight”, memory problems, poor judgment, poor attention span, a slowed thought processing speed)
  • Inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, easily frustrated, inappropriate crying or laughing)
  • Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing
  • Body numbness or tingling
  • Loss of bowel control or bladder control


A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency.  “Symptoms of Mild Brain Injury can be temporary and the majority of people recover, though the timetable for recovery can vary significantly from person to person,” says Dr. Hurley.

If the injury is more severe, it is usually clear from the symptoms that are present that some type of brain injury has occurred.  If the injury is milder (milder from a trauma standpoint, not a consequence standpoint), further assessment is needed to diagnose the brain injury.  Imaging technology such as a CT or MRI scan can help assess the severity, location and type of injury to the brain. Both of these tests are available at the new Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox and the Silver Cross Health Center in Homer Glen.

Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two brain injuries are exactly alike. For some, brain injury is the start of a lifelong disease process. The injury requires access to a full continuum of medically necessary treatment and community-based supports furnished by interdisciplinary teams of qualified and specialized clinicians working in accredited programs and appropriate settings.  Through Silver Cross’s partnership with The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), many of these services are available close to home at the new hospital including both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.   For more information, call (815) 300-7110.

About Dr. Hurley

Thomas Hurley, M.D., is a board certified neurosurgeon with Southwest Suburban Neurological Surgery located on the Silver Cross Hospital Campus at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox. Dr. Hurley earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. He remained at Rush for his residency training in neurological surgery. After completing his residency, Dr. Hurley joined the medical staff of Silver Cross Hospital in 1996 as a founding member and medical director of the CINN Institute of Spinal Care.  With over 15 years of experience, Dr. Hurley treats a wide range of nervous system conditions. He is an authority in the care of patients with traumatic spine disorders, specializing in complex fusion and minimally invasive procedures.   He is also an active author and lecturer who presents ongoing community programs on the various aspects of spinal and brain disorders.

Dr. Hurley holds memberships in several professional organizations including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the American Medical Association. He is past president of the Illinois State Neurosurgical Society and current president of the Will-Grundy County Medical Society. He is a former 2nd District Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the Illinois State Medical Society.  Further, Dr. Hurley has been recognized as one of the “Top Docs” at Silver Cross Hospital for outstanding patient satisfaction.  To schedule an appointment, call (815) 723-4387 or fax (815) 723-4634. He accepts most insurance and is currently accepting new patients.

About Silver Cross Hospital

Silver Cross Hospital is a not-for-profit health care provider serving Will County and southwest suburban communities since 1895. Silver Cross has been recognized as a Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals National Award winner for the last seven consecutive years and as one of America’s Most Customer Friendly Hospitals by the American Alliance of Healthcare Providers. With over 2,900 employees, physicians and volunteers, Silver Cross operates a 304-bed acute care hospital and 10 satellite facilities providing outpatient services and physician offices and recently opened a state-of-the-art replacement hospital on February 26, 2012 at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox. To learn more about Silver Cross Hospital or a referral to a physician on staff, visit or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).


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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care.  These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.