Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an external force — a bump, blow, jolt or penetrating object — injures the brain. A TBI can result in a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities depending on the severity and complexity of the injury.
Every year, traumatic brain injuries are a factor in many deaths and cases of permanent disability, according the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010 alone, 2.5-million cases of TBI were reported in the United States.
TBIs can range from mild — as in a concussion — to severe. A mild brain injury may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells, whereas more serious injury can cause severe bruising or bleeding in the brain that could lead to serious long-term complications.
A TBI can cause several symptoms affecting physical, cognitive, social and emotional behavior. Outcomes can range from complete recovery to permanent disability or even death.
It is vital to seek immediate medical attention after a head trauma to avoid long-term injury to the brain and future complications.
For more information on traumatic brain injury, call UC Irvine Health Neurosurgery Services at 714-456-6966 or 855-557-1531.
Physical signs of mild traumatic injury to the brain can include:
- Lack of motor coordination
- Difficulty balancing
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Changes in sleep patterns
Traumatic brain injury is often accompanied by emotional or cognitive difficulties, including:
- Behavioral or mood changes
- Trouble with memory
- Trouble concentrating or thinking
Signs of a more severe trauma to the brain include:
- A persistent headache that does not go away
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Inability to awaken
- Dilation of one or both pupils
- Slurred speech
- Aphasia (difficulty finding words)
- Muscle weakness that causes disordered speech
- Weakness or numbness in the limbs
- Loss of coordination
- Restlessness or agitation
Other symptoms of severe TBI include changes in appropriate social behavior, deficits in social judgment and cognitive changes, especially problems with sustained attention, information processing and executive functioning.
The first step in treating a moderate to severe TBI is to stabilize the patient, ensuring the proper flow of bloodand oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body, and preventing further damage to brain tissue.
Imaging and other tests can determine the extent of injury to the brain and its functions. Moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation that may include: