Traumatic Brain Injury

February 13, 2013

There are many cases of traumatic brain injury in the US. In fact, there are more than 1.5 million traumatic brain injuries prevalent in the US and about 1.2 million ER visits, 290,000 hospitalizations and at least 50,000 deaths due to this devastating disease. Most traumatic brain injuries occur secondary to falls and motor vehicle injuries. These types of injuries occur when there is an external force on the brain causing brain dysfunction.


A violent blow to the head is the main cause of these types of injuries. It can also be caused by penetrating trauma, such as with a bullet or shrapnel. Brain injury types can be mild, moderate or severe. Fortunately there are many more mild injuries than severe injuries. Traumatic injuries to the brain can have a wide range of psychological and physical effects. Patients can have symptoms immediately after the injury or delayed symptoms.

In a mild brain injury, there may be no loss of consciousness or a loss of consciousness that lasts only a few minutes. There are immediate memory or concentration difficulties and a headache often occurs. There can be dizziness or vertigo associated with nausea and vomiting. Blurry vision or ringing in the ears is common and there can be sensitivity to light or sound. The person may develop anxiety or depression and may have mood swings. There can be fatigue or drowsiness and the person may have difficulty sleeping properly. On the other hand, the patient may sleep more than normal.

In moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries, the symptoms can be similar to milder injuries; however, the loss of consciousness can be many minute or even several hours. The period of confusion can be very long and the person may exhibit profound combativeness or agitation. Speech can be slurred and the person may be so injured that it is difficult to awaken them from sleep. There can be peripheral weakness or numbness and a lack of coordination. Vomiting can be repeated and the headache can be severe. Seizures are not uncommon and a professional evaluation can show dilatation of one or both pupils of the eyes. If there is a skull fracture, clear cerebrospinal fluid can drain from the ears or nose. There can be bleeding from the ear or nose as well.

Children can be injured as well and can have their own set of symptoms. There can be a sudden change in eating or drinking habits as well as persistent crying. The baby may be very irritable and difficult to console. The child's attention span can be poor and they may sleep too little or too much. The child may appear excessively sad and will have lost interest in the normal things in life.

The degree of damage depends on the type of event occurring and on the force of the impact. Injury can be located just to the area of impact or can cause multiple points of damage as the brain sloshes back and forth in the head. Rotation of the head can tear the cellular structures of the brain. An explosion can cause serious injury. Penetrating trauma can permanently kill off a section of brain, including blood vessels, brain cells and the dura of the brain. Any bleeding in the brain can cause swelling and blood clot that ruin the oxygen supply to the brain.