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Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is exactly what it sounds like. This is a type of brain injury caused by a trauma. A TBI may occur after your head strikes an object, or when an object goes through your skull and damages your brain. Many TBIs occur during motor vehicle accidents. Falls, firearms, and assaults are other major causes.

A concussion is a minor form of brain injury. Most cases of brain injury that occur each year are mild. Unfortunately, these injuries can also be severe. Severe brain injuries require emergency care. People with severe injuries may require a lengthy recovery period, and their symptoms can linger for a long time.

Facts about traumatic brain injury

After a TBI, neurons (nerve cells) in the brain may be damaged. As a result, the neurons may have trouble doing their job of carrying signals to different parts of the brain. As a result, if you have a brain injury, you could have trouble thinking or moving as you normally do. Your brain may also have trouble keeping your body working properly.

Symptoms

TBIs can cause many symptoms, depending on their severity and which part of the brain they affect. These are possible symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Headache

  • Confusion

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Memory problems

  • Trouble thinking

  • Mood changes

  • Personality changes

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Agitation

  • Seizures

  • Change in sleep patterns

  • Difficulty waking up

  • Problems with coordination

  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs    

Diagnosis

Your doctor will likely ask you questions about how the injury occurred and if you are having any symptoms. Your doctor will also likely want to know if you were unconscious after your injury and will ask you questions to evaluate your thought process.

Your doctor may want you to have X-rays or a CT or MRI scan of your head and neck to assess the extent of the injury.

Treatment

You may not need medical attention for a mild brain injury. For more severe cases, you should seek medical care. You may need X-rays or other diagnostic tests to help determine the severity of your injury.

If your injury is severe, you may need surgery to treat bleeding or bruising. You may also need rehabilitation after you're treated. During rehab, therapists may help you regain abilities and skills that were lost due to the injury. For example, you may need help learning to speak, move, and take care of yourself again. Social support is also an important part of rehab for you and your family.  

Prevention

You can take many steps to protect yourself from a traumatic brain injury:

  • Don’t drive when you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Always wear a seat belt while in a vehicle.

  • Wear a helmet while on a bicycle, motorcycle, or horseback. Also wear a helmet during contact sports, riding skates or a skateboard, or batting while playing baseball or softball.

  • Take precautions to avoid falls around your home.

  • Keep firearms unloaded and locked away.

Managing traumatic brain injuries

This type of injury may cause long-term changes. It may affect your thinking, your mood, or your ability to think, see, or hear normally. If these changes are severe enough, you may need help with your daily activities.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jones, Niya, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 6/24/2012
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