A traumatic brain injury can be a serious injury to the brain, resulting in permanent brain damage. In general, the greater the force of trauma to the brain, the greater is the degree of damage. A concussion can be a traumatic brain injury from which the patient fully recovers over time. This is a mild traumatic brain injury. They are classified as mild, moderate or severe. Regardless of the degree of injury, people tend to improve their symptoms over time. In severe cases, some of the symptoms never disappear.
TBIs affect nearly 1.7 million Americans per year. Most are seen in the emergency room and are discharged to home. About 275,000 are admitted to the hospital each year and about 52,000 people die from their injuries. About 125,000 are permanently disabled because of their TBI.
The main causes of traumatic brain injuries are falls, motor vehicle accidents, being struck by a motor vehicle, assaults and miscellaneous causes. Blasts injuring military personnel are the major cause of TBIs in people in war zones. Males are 1-½ times more likely to sustain a TBI when compared to females. The ages most likely to get a traumatic brain injury include those 0-4 years of age, 15-19 years of age and those 65 years of age or older. African-Americans have the highest death rate from TBIs.
Traumatic brain injury costs the US about $60 billion dollars per year. The more severe injuries cost the most to treat, with prolonged care required and costs of up to $1.8 million dollars per year for just one patient are not unexpected. Veterans cost more because they tend to have other injuries besides their TBI.
The TBI tends to affect anything that has to do with the brain, such as sleeping, eating, memory, and thinking. Emotions and behavioral issues can be altered by a TBI. An injured person’s ability to communicate with others can be impaired. In severe cases, the person can have seizures and is at a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
There are many challenges for doctors trying to treat a traumatic brain injury. These people are often resistant to treatment because the brain heals slowly and lifelong disabilities can happen. The patient with a TBI has a difficult time getting the basic services, including vocational training, housing, transportation, treating services, and respite for caregivers. There is rarely a coordination of services for these people who must find their way among doctors and rehabilitation services.
Even when it has been a long time since the TBI, many people find that they have residual needs that aren’t being met by the healthcare system, such as help with problems solving and memory, managing stress, dealing with emotional upsets, controlling one’s temper and improving one’s job skills.
It is difficult to predict outcome when a person has a TBI. Most of the milder cases resolve over several months. More serious TBIs can result in prolonged disability, involving several months or years before the patient stabilizes. Difficulties with basic cognitive skills like paying attention or concentrating can be impaired so that learning new material becomes difficult.
One study looked at the relationship between the brain injury severity and severity of the impact in TBIs. They looked at pedestrians who were killed or injured in a pedestrian accident. Lateral impacts to the temporal lobe involved a greater injury degree when compared to occipital-frontal injuries.