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What does a "diffuse axonal injury" mean for Jules Bianchi?

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What does a "diffuse axonal injury" mean for Jules Bianchi?
Oct 7, 2014, 3:15 PM

The Bianchi family has this afternoon issued a statement with the latest update on Jules Bianchi's condition following his accident on Sunday and s...

The Bianchi family has this afternoon issued a statement with the latest update on Jules Bianchi's condition following his accident on Sunday and subsequent surgery to a severe head injury.

The statements says: “This is a very difficult time for our family, but the messages of support and affection for Jules from all over the world have been a source of great comfort to us. We would like to express our sincere appreciation.

"Jules remains in the Intensive Care Unit of the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi. He has suffered a diffuse axonal injury and is in a critical but stable condition. The medical professionals at the hospital are providing the very best treatment and care and we are grateful for everything they have done for Jules since his accident.

"We are also grateful for the presence of Professor Gerard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission, and Professor Alessandro Frati, Neurosurgeon of the University of Rome La Sapienza, who has travelled to Japan at the request of Scuderia Ferrari. They arrived at the hospital today and met with the medical personnel responsible for Jules’ treatment, in order to be fully informed of his clinical status so that they are able to advise the family. Professors Saillant and Frati acknowledge the excellent care being provided by the Mie General Medical Center and would like to thank their Japanese colleagues."

The hospital will continue to monitor and treat Jules and further medical updates will be provided when appropriate.”

This website has spoken this afternoon to a leading London brain surgeon, who informed us that a diffuse axonal injury means that there is no specific area of sharp focus in the brain which has been damaged. In other words it's not like an area of depression which would be caused by a blow from a hammer. It is a non-direct injury where the head decelerates and rotates. Typically the risk is nerve fibres being damages, there are often areas of bleeding.

Surgery isn't always done on this type of injury; Bianchi did have surgery on Sunday night and doctors will now be monitoring the pressure inside his skull. If that does not escalate and when it stabilises, then within 1-5 days they will reduce the anaesthetic and see if he wakes up, then they will take it from there.

We are told that with diffuse axonal injuries, 48 hours after the accident is very early to make any predictions on the outcome; some patients go on to make a full recovery, some do not. It's rather like dropping a computer on the floor and turning it back on, there can be a wide range of results.

Top Gear TV presenter Richard Hammond is a good example of a patient who made a recovery from a diffuse axonal injury and he woke up after around one week.

That said, the announcement that it is a diffuse axonal injury at this stage is painting "quite a bleak picture", according to our surgeon contact and it is clearly going to be a long and difficult road to recovery for Bianchi.
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