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What is Traumatic Brain Injury- TBI?
by Dore Frances, IEC, MA, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLCTBI is also called acquired brain injury or simply head injury.
How it might happen:
- Motor vehicle accidents: 50%
- Assaults/acts of violence: 12%
- Sports and recreation: 10%
- Other: 7%
TBI occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. The damage can be focal - confined to one area of the brain - or diffuse - involving more than one area of the brain. TBI can result from a closed head injury or a penetrating head injury.
A closed injury occurs when the head suddenly and violently hits an object but the object does not break through the skull.
A penetrating injury occurs when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of TBI?
Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain.
Some symptoms are evident immediately, while others do not surface until several days or weeks after the injury.
A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. The person may also feel dazed or not like themselves for several days or weeks after the initial injury.
Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, light headedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and/or increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation. Small children with moderate to severe TBI may show some of these signs as well as signs specific to young children, such as persistent crying, inability to be consoled, and/or refusal to nurse or eat. Anyone with signs of moderate or severe TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
What Are the Causes of and Risk Factors for TBI?
Half of all TBIs are due to transportation accidents involving automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Approximately 20 percent of TBIs are due to violence, such as firearm assaults and child abuse, and about 3 percent are due to sports injuries. Fully half of TBI incidents involve alcohol use. The cause of the TBI plays a role in determining the patient's outcome.
For example, approximately 91 percent of firearm TBIs (two-thirds of which may be suicidal in intent) result in death, while only 11 percent of TBIs from falls result in death.
What Disabilities Can Result From a TBI?
Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the patient.
Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).
Within days to weeks of the head injury approximately 40 percent of TBI patients develop a host of troubling symptoms collectively called post concussion syndrome (PCS).
A patient need not have suffered a concussion or loss of consciousness to develop the syndrome and many patients with mild TBI suffer from PCS. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, vertigo (a sensation of spinning around or of objects spinning around the patient), memory problems, trouble concentrating, sleeping problems, restlessness, irritability, apathy, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms may last for a few weeks after the head injury.
The syndrome is more prevalent in patients who had psychiatric symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, before the injury. Treatment for PCS may include medicines for pain and psychiatric conditions, and psychotherapy and occupational therapy to develop coping skills.
How Can TBI be Prevented?
Unlike most neurological disorders, head injuries can be prevented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued the following safety tips for reducing the risk of suffering a TBI.
Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a car Avoid falls by using a step-stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves Keep firearms and bullets stored in a locked cabinet when not in use Make sure the surface on your child's playground is made of shock-absorbing material (e.g., hardwood mulch, sand).
Wear a helmet and make sure your children wear helmets when riding a bike or motorcycle
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute's Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN) at:
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Dore Frances, IEC, MA, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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