A traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as a TBI, occurs when there is a sudden, blunt trauma to the brain. An estimated 2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The leading cause of TBI is falls followed by car accidents.
TBI Symptoms & Ranges
The symptoms of TBI range from mild to moderate to severe and depend on the extent of damage the brain sustains. A person with mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds. Other symptoms include confusion, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears and more. While a person with moderate or severe TBI may show all of these symptoms but may have a headache that increases in pain and doesn’t go away accompanied by vomiting, convulsions, seizures and nausea, inability to awaken from sleep and more. The most severe of cases can result in unresponsive state.
Anyone that displays signs of moderate to severe TBI should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medically speaking, there is not much that can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, but medical personnel can stabilize an individual and work to prevent the injury from becoming progressively worse. Primary concerns range from ensuring proper oxygen supply to the brain and controlling blood pressure.
Patients that sustain mild to moderate injuries commonly need an x-ray to assess the skull and neck to check for bone fractures or spinal instability. For moderate to severe cases, the imagining test is a CT scan followed by rehabilitation with programs that are individually tailored to the person and specific injuries sustained.
About half of severely injured patients will require surgery to remove and/or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI injury vary upon severity of the injury as well as the location, age of the patient and general health.
Some common TBI-associated disabilities are outlined below:
- Left vs. Right Brain – the brain is divided into two halves (hemispheres). The left half controls movement and sensation to the right side while the right side controls movement and sensation to the left side.
- Physical problems – most people with TBI are able to walk and use their hands within 6-12 months after injury. In long term cases the TBI may reduce coordination or produce weakness and problems with balance. For example, a person with TBI may have difficulty maintaining activity for very long due to fatigue.
- Problems with cognition – memory, reasoning and thinking. After brain injury, a person may have trouble with all the complex cognitive activities necessary to be independent and competent in our complex world.
- Sensory processing – hearing, sight, taste and touch.
- Communication – expression and understanding.
- Behavior and Mental Health – anxiety, depression, aggression, acting out, personal changes and more.
This information is not meant to be an exhaustive list of injuries and associated complications sustained after a traumatic brain injury, please seek medical assistance if necessary. With rehabilitation training, support and therapy a person that has sustained a TBI can learn to manage emotional and behavioral problems.