Traumatic Brain Injury: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a nondegenerative, non-congenital insult to the brain from an external mechanical force. The definition of TBI is not fixed, but it is often synonymous with head injury.

Traumatic brain injury usually results from a heavy blow, bump or concussive force to the head or body, or an object that penetrates brain tissue in rare circumstances, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull. It will permanent or temporary damage the patient’s cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions and state of consciousness, possibly leading to long-term complications or death.

Traumatic brain injury in the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans sustain a TBI per year. Every day, 153 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI.

Causes

Traumatic brain injury is caused by a severe blow to the head, or a traumatic injury that penetrates and disrupts normal brain function. Common event leading to TBI include the following:

  • Falls

The most common cause of traumatic brain injury is all kinds of falls from different places, such as a bed or ladder. Children and the elderly are the main victims.

  • Vehicle-related collisions

Collisions involving motor vehicles and pedestrians involved in transportation accidents are a common cause of traumatic brain injury.

  • Violence

Gunshot wounds, domestic violence, child abuse and other assaults are common causes.

  • Sports injuries

A number of sports, including soccer, boxing, football and skateboarding may put the participants at the risk of getting traumatic brain injuries.

  • Explosive blasts and other combat injuries

Explosive blasts are a common cause of traumatic brain injury in active-duty military personnel.

  • Penetrating wounds

A bullet or shattered piece of skull will penetrate into the brain tissues and cause traumatic brain injury.

  • Being struck by or colliding with an object

A collision with either an object, moving or not, accounts for 15 percent of traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms

Traumatic brain injury has wide-ranging temporary or permanent symptoms.

Mild traumatic brain injury:

  • An immediate loss of consciousness
  • A state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sensory problems
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes
  • Depression or anxiety

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries

  • Loss of consciousness for several minutes or hours
  • Persistent headache
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, aggression or other unusual behaviors
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness

Diagnosis

Early diagnosis is crucial to prevent potentially life-threatening complications of TBI. There are a few useful tools for diagnosing TBI:

  • The Glasgow Coma Scale

GCS is commonly used to assess the likelihood and severity of brain damage after a head injury.

  • Imaging scans

MRI or CT imaging scans of the brain will help determine the existence and location of any brain injury or damage.

  • Angiography

Angiography may be used to detect any blood vessel problems, particularly after a penetrating head trauma.

  • Electroencephalography

The results of EEG can ascertain a patient’s non-convulsive seizures by measuring the electrical activity within the brain.

  • Neurocognitive tests

These tests can help assess any loss of memory or ability to process thoughts.

Treatment

Emergency Treatment for TBI

Emergency care may include:

  • Ensuring adequate oxygen flow to the brain
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Preventing further injury to the head or neck.

Additional surgery may include:

  • Removing clotted blood
  • Repairing skull fractures
  • Relieving pressure in the skull

Medications

These medications may include, but are not limited to:

  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Anticoagulants 
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants 
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Stimulants

Rehabilitation Therapies

Treatment programs should be personalized to the needs of the individual. Generally, rehabilitation can include several different kinds of therapy for physical, emotional, and cognitive difficulties.

Keywords: traumatic brain injury.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.