His family claimed on Wednesday that Bob Saget, the actor and comedian, looked to have fallen and struck his head on something before going to sleep, maybe without realising what had happened.
Although Mr. Saget, 65, died a few hours later on Jan. 9 from blunt head trauma, according to a medical examiner, the incident has brought attention to the potential hazards of traumatic brain injuries, even ones that may not seem to be life-threatening at the time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61,000 deaths were caused by traumatic brain injuries in 2019, with falls accounting for nearly half of all head trauma-related hospitalizations.
Experts in the field of brain damage said on Thursday that Mr. Saget’s situation was unusual: people who have suffered major head trauma would be expected to have visible symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and disorientation. And, in most cases, they may be rescued by having their skulls opened up and the pressure on their brains relieved as a result of bleeding.
Doctors, on the other hand, say that certain circumstances place patients at more risk for the kind of decline that Mr. Saget experienced.
According to physicians, being alone is a danger factor that is as significant as any other. If you have a brain injury, you may lose touch with your typical decision-making abilities and become confused, irritated, or unusually drowsy as a result of the damage. It is these symptoms that might make it difficult to receive care.
Experts say that although there was no evidence that Mr. Saget was using blood thinners, the pills may significantly increase the amount of bleeding that occurs after a head injury that pulls the brain lower and compresses the regions that control respiration and other essential processes. As the population becomes older, these medications are being administered to an increasing number of Americans.
Mr. Saget was discovered comatose in his hotel room in Orlando, where he had been staying for a weekend of stand-up comedy performances. He died on Wednesday as a result of “blunt head trauma,” according to the local medical examiner’s office, which also said that “his injuries were most likely sustained as a consequence of an unwitnessed fall.”
The medical examiner found no signs of illicit narcotics in his system, according to the report.
Doctor Gavin Britz, the chair of neurosurgery at Houston Methodist, says that if you have a head injury, you should never — and I mean never — be by yourself for the first 24 hours after the injury.
Dr. Britz advised those who get a substantial blow to the head should consult a doctor or, if that is not possible, to ask someone to keep note of their symptoms and even wake them up periodically at night to ensure that they are being monitored properly.
Experts in the field of brain damage also stressed that the appearance of symptoms typically indicated that medical attention was required.
Doctor Jeffrey Bazarian, an emergency physician and concussion specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says there’s no need to go to the doctor after a little bump. In contrast, he said, “If you hit your head and have persistent symptoms, such as a headache or disorientation, you should seek medical assistance, particularly if you are taking a blood thinner.”
The C.D.C. advises that traumatic brain injuries might be neglected in older persons when the symptoms match with those observed in other frequent disorders, such dementia.
According to the organisation, those 75 and older account for nearly one-third of all head trauma-related hospitalizations, while specialists say they prefer to exercise more care with patients who are at least 60 years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, males are at greater risk than women.
The head of neuroemergencies management at Mount Sinai Health System, Dr. Neha Dangayach, said, “As our population becomes older, we must be cognizant of the hazards associated with using blood thinners.” “If you have a fall or hit your head, don’t dismiss it as an accident.”
Doctors, on the other hand, said that such head injuries were often curable and that fatalities were almost always avoidable.
Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, a neurosurgeon at Stanford University School of Medicine who has contributed to the development of treatment standards for brain injuries, shared his experience operating on a 100-year-old woman who had suffered a significant head injury.