Traumatic Brain Injury – TBI

CDC definition: “Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.”

Despite sounding fairly straightforward, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be highly varied in its presentation and outcome due to a variety of factors.

Additionally, the causes of a TBI can be just as varied. Generally, a TBI results from bleeding in the brain, tearing of tissues, and/or brain swelling when the brain moves inside the skull at the time of an impact. Recent statistics suggest that millions of individuals are affected by TBIs. Such injuries are frequently a result of motor vehicle accidents (e.g., auto/car, motorcycles, bicycles, and boats), gunshot wounds, sports injuries, work related injuries, falls at home, etc. More recently, stronger attention has been paid to IED and bomb related TBIs sustained by our brave service men and women of the armed forces. While adolescents and younger adult males seem to be most at risk, TBIs are also frequently seen in pediatric and geriatric populations across all ethnicities.

Three Levels of TBI Severity

Generally, TBIs can be categorized into three severity levels e.g., mild, moderate, and severe. Contrary to what some may believe, mild TBI cases are actually amongst the hardest to diagnose and differentiate. This is largely due to subtle deficits versus pronounced problems which are more readily evident in moderate to severe cases. TBIs are also often classified as open (penetrating injury) or closed head injuries (e.g., stroke, brain tumor, effects of substance abuse, infection, poisoning, etc). An important factor which complicates the post-injury process is whether the patient is comatose following a TBI. Alternatively, a medically induced coma may sometimes become necessary to relieve intracranial pressure without which the swelling and resulting pressure in the skull cavity can cause further brain damage and eventual death.

A Concussion

A concussion, which is viewed by some professionals as a type of brain injury, can result from minor trauma or injury to one’s head. This generally results in short-lived (from hours to days or weeks) disruption to normal brain functioning. Symptoms can include headaches, confusion, neck pain, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness, and/or fatigue. More severe TBIs often result in sustained (months to years) cognitive, behavioral, and/or personality problems which often necessitate residential neurorehabilitation and/or neurobehavioral services.  Specifically, cognitive problems can adversely impact functioning of memory, attention and concentration skills, speech and language abilities, visual perceptual skills, as well as coordination and movement.

Problems also often extend to poor or degraded judgment, insight, and awareness which can lead to behavioral problems involving poor personal choices and consequential legal problems. Therefore, the treatment of TBIs remains multifaceted and variably challenges victims, families, as well as clinical providers. This is further impacted by limited access to services. For example, auto insurance (Michigan no-fault) in some states in the U.S. provide life-long coverage for TBI survivors. However, others are left to rely on personal, state, and/or federal health benefits which are often financially inadequate to fully compensate higher quality treatment options. Continued TBI education, research, and advocacy remain necessary to help overcome such disparities.

If you or someone you love needs help with TBI recovery please contact us today!

Related TBI Articles:

What is ABI?

TBI Recovery Strategies

TBI and Long-Term Care

TBI  and Anger Management