What is a traumatic brain injury?
A traumatic brain injury (often abbreviated as TBI) is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the overall function of the brain. It is important to note that not all blows or jolts to the head result in a traumatic brain injury. The severity of the injury can range from “mild” (a brief change in mental state or consciousness) to “severe” (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). Traumatic brain injuries can result in short or long-term problems with independent function.
Common causes of traumatic brain injury include:
- Motor vehicle/traffic accidents
- Sport injuries
- Physical assault/injury
- Blast injury (common among military personnel)
Symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Concentration issues
- Forgetfulness/memory loss
- Sleep problems
- Balance issues
- Ringing in the ears
- Vision changes (including blurred or double vision)
Who is at highest risk for traumatic brain injury?
According to research, males are about 1.5 times as likely as females to sustain a traumatic brain injury. Additionally, military duties increase the risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury in both genders.
How is a traumatic brain injury classified?
Traumatic brain injuries are classified as one of three levels- mild, moderate, or severe. This classification is based on the amount of time a person is unconscious, the presence of memory loss or posttraumatic amnesia, and the results of a neuroimaging test.
Healthcare providers use a scale called the Glasgow Coma Scale to help determine the level of consciousness of a person with a traumatic brain injury. The test is relatively easy to administer, considered reliable and is a good indicator of prognosis for recovery following severe traumatic brain injury. This scale uses three measures of responses that are scored separately, then combined for a total score. The responses measured include eye opening, best verbal response, and best motor response.
What are the signs and symptoms of moderate and severe traumatic brain injury?
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
- Inability or changes in ability to use senses of taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic pain
- Paralysis and/or muscle spasticity
- Vision changes or loss of vision
- Memory loss/amnesia
- Loss of or changes in coordination
- Confusion, restlessness or agitation
- Inability or difficulty speaking, understanding, and concentrating
- Severe headaches
- Coma (unconsciousness)
What is a penetrating head injury?
A penetrating head injury is a brain injury in which an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue.
How long do symptoms last?
Length and duration of symptoms of a traumatic brain injury largely depend on the severity of the injury. Mild traumatic brain injury typically improves within hours to days and almost always resolve over the course of one to three months. Moderate to severe injuries may have long-term problems that last months to the course of a person’s life.
Does therapy help?
Some injuries could be helped by one of a variety of therapies, which would be recommended by medical professionals.