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Traumatic Brain Injuries

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a head injury that causes a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, jolt to the head or penetrating head injury. A head injury may be elevated to a TBI if there is a possibility of temporary or permanent impairment of cognitive, physical or psychosocial functions.

What Are the Symptoms Associated with a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may appear immediately or they may emerge days, months or even years after the initial injury. At times a person may not associate symptoms with a TBI and some people may show little to no symptoms initially only to worsen over time. TBI symptoms will also depend on the type and severity of the injury.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Physical Symptoms

  • Short periods of losing consciousness
  • States of confusion or disorientation
  • Persistent headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Loss of balance or motor skills

Sensory Symptoms

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to bright lights or sounds

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Trouble with memory or concentration
  • Behavioral or mood changes
  • Depression and anxiety

Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Physical Symptoms

Signs of internal bleeding as a result of an acute TBI may include bruising behind the ears or under the eyes and need immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Long periods of losing consciousness
  • States of confusion or disorientation
  • Severe and persistent headaches
  • Chronic nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Bleeding or clear liquid coming from the ears or nose
  • Loss of coordination and motor skills

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Severe confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Behavioral changes such as agitation or combativeness
  • Coma or prolonged loss of consciousness

What Causes a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A TBI can be caused by any severe jolt or blow to the head that pushes the brain up against the skull and causes damage or bleeding in or around the brain.

This can be the result of:

  • Falls
  • Major accidents
  • Automobile accidents
  • Violence
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Explosives or combat injuries

What Complications are Associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Aside from the immediate effects of a major head or brain injury, TBI can lead to long-term complications such as:

  • Seizures
  • Infections
  • Fluid buildup in the brain
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Cognitive or mental problems
  • Major depression and anxiety

In addition, severe complications with a TBI can lead to entering into a coma or long-term neurological problems and difficulties.

How Is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a TBI depends on the type and severity of the injury. Similar to non-traumatic brain injuries, diagnosis is usually quick but the prognosis can be much more complicated.

To identify a TBI, brain injury specialists commonly use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), a 15-point test that measures a person’s level of consciousness, and brain injury severity by prompting body movements, eye movements and verbal response.

Imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs are also very common.

How Is a Traumatic Brain Injury Treated?

Mild TBIs may require little to no treatment other than over-the-counter pain medication, rest and monitoring for any aggravation of symptoms.

More severe traumatic brain injury treatment will depend on a number of factors but may include:

  • Medications
  • Surgical treatment to repair skull fractures, stop bleeding in the brain or to relieve pressure inside the skull
  • Rehabilitation