The pons is a small but important part of the brainstem. Nestled between the medulla oblongata below and the midbrain above, the tiny structure — less than three centimeters long — controls several important bodily functions. When there is damage to the pons, it can prevent some key autonomic and sensory functions from occurring or from working properly. This could include breathing and lead to death.
Understanding the Role of the Pons
The pons is small, but that does not mean it is not important. In some cases, the proper functioning of the pons is essential to survival. Without quick medical attention, and injury to this area can lead to brain damage or death in a matter of minutes if the victim is not taking spontaneous breaths.
Regulation of breathing is perhaps the single most crucial role of the pons. A group of nerve cells called the pneumotaxic center controls how much air you take in and how often you take a breath. This ensures you still get enough oxygen no matter what you are doing. When you run, for example, you begin breathing faster and taking in more air because your body is using more oxygen than when resting.
The pons also plays a role in:
- Deep Sleep
The pons serves as a relay station for many types of messages that go from the forebrain to the cerebellum and back. Without the pons to transmit these messages, many vital functions of the brain would not be possible. This is another reason why significant damage to the pons can lead to catastrophic impairments or death.
When the Pons Sustains an Injury
The most common way an injury to the pons occurs is through a stroke that cuts off blood flow to the area. However, a tumor or hemorrhage affecting the area can also cause problems. Lastly, traumatic injuries that directly affect the pons are possible.
When the pons sustains an injury, the result may be locked in syndrome, a condition where the person loses all muscle control except for vertical eye movement. He or she remains alert and aware of what is going on around them but cannot speak or move to let anyone know he or she is cognitively intact.
In other cases, he or she may suffer a variety of symptoms related to motor function, sensory information signals, breathing regulation, and sleep patterns.
Treatment and Recovery Following an Injury to the Pons
The prognosis following an injury to the pons depends significantly on the specific injury and other individual factors. Because different areas of the brain control higher functioning, there is often some marked improvement in patients even following a serious stroke or injury. In cases when all the nerves involved in transmitting messages across the pons suffer damage, there is usually no significant recovery.
When a brain injury involves the pons, some people recover with rehabilitation, although many have significant lasting impairments. Others never recover motor or sensory function and remain in a locked-in state for the rest of their lives, communicating using eye gaze devices or computer-brain interface devices.
Those who do recover often require months of inpatient treatment and rehabilitation. He or she usually suffered an incomplete injury, where many of the nerves of the pons remained functioning. These patients may need:
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Strength training
- Around-the-clock nursing care, at first
- Ongoing assistance, depending on lasting impairments
There have been cases of a complete or near-complete recovery following a pontine stroke with incomplete damage to the pons. Only your loved one’s doctor or another physician familiar with their case can give you a prognosis or speculate about their chances of recovery.
Taking Legal Action for an Injury to the Pons
If you or a loved one suffer an injury to the pons, you may be eligible to pursue compensation in some cases. Negligence can cause and exacerbate injuries to the pons in several ways. This may include:
- Traumatic brain injury that occurs in a car accident or other accident
- Traumatic brain injury from a violent incident
- Stroke due to medical malpractice
- Delayed or incorrect diagnosis due to medical malpractice
- Other cases of medical malpractice
At Newsome Melton, attorneys are standing by to take on cases just like yours. Reach out to us today for a free case review and consultation. If we take legal action on your behalf, we will pursue damages for your family that include:
- Medical care costs
- Ongoing and future care costs
- Lost wages and benefits
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Wrongful death damages
Call our team today at 1-866-611-BASC to get started. Let us fight for the payout your family deserves.