Dr. Ngo with traumatic brain injury patient

Traumatic Brain Injuries

The brain is a very fragile but critical organ within the human body. It controls all body functions, and injuries to it can adversely affect our ability to operate normally on almost every level. Traumatic brain injuries can result in a number of disabilities, and must be evaluated and addressed correctly in order for the sufferer to regain optimal function and quality of life.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an impact, jolt, or penetrating blow to the head that alters the brain’s normal function. While not all blows to the head result in a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, any injury that results in impairment of normal brain function is typically classified as a TBI.

TBIs can be mild, resulting in temporary alterations in a person’s consciousness or mental status, or severe — for instance, resulting in a prolonged period of amnesia or unconsciousness after the injury. Severe traumatic brain injuries can cause bleeding, torn tissues, bruising, and other physical harm to the brain; such trauma may may be accompanied by short-term or permanent issues regarding self-reliance or cognitive function.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injury

While there are several different types of TBI, ranging from concussion (a jolt or blow that causes the brain to move within the skull) and contusion (bruises/bleeding on the surface of the brain) to diffuse anoxal injury (tearing of the brain’s connective nerve fibers in a twisting event), traumatic brain injuries are generally grouped into two categories, closed and open.

Closed TBIs

Closed TBIs occur when there is no breaking of the skull, and the brain is shaken or damaged inside it, as in a car accident or fall. Shaken baby syndrome is another example of a closed traumatic brain injury.

Penetrating TBIs

Penetrating TBIs are those in which the skull is pierced or cracked, as in a gunshot wound.

Non-traumatic vs Traumatic Brain Injury

Unlike a TBI, a non-traumatic brain injury is damage to the brain that does not result from external force. These stem from near-drowning experiences, cardiac arrest, aneurysms, metabolic disorders, oxygen deprivation, and illnesses. Non-violent situations such as lead poisoning and tumors could also cause brain injuries.

Non-traumatic injuries affect the brain’s cellular structure and could spread to other regions, while TBIs generally distort the functioning of specific regions. Common causes of non-traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Metabolic or toxic injury
  • Anoxic injury
  • Virus infections
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Drug abuse
  • Stroke

Common Causes of TBIs

A traumatic brain injury results from a severe blow to the head or body, but the level of damage depends on multiple factors, such as the force of the impact or the form of injury.

Typical events that cause TBIs include:

  • Falls from the bath, down the stairs, or from a ladder or bed are some of the most prevalent causes of TBIs, especially among children and older adults.
  • Combat injuries or explosive blasts can severely affect the brain function of military personnel on active duty. It is unclear how such damage may occur, but researchers associate some such TBIs with high-pressure waves traveling through the brain.
  • Sports injuries occurring in high-impact or high-risk sports like hockey, skateboarding, lacrosse, baseball, football, boxing, or soccer can cause traumatic brain injuries, particularly in youth.
  • Violence, including child abuse, domestic abuse, gunshots, and other forms of assault, can cause TBIs. Shaken baby syndrome among infants is also a common cause of traumatic brain injury.
  • Collisions involving pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles are common causes of TBIs.
  • An object that penetrates the brain tissue, such as a piece of the skull from a violent blow, can also cause a TBI.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms & Effects

Moderate to severe injuries present from several hours to a few days after a jolt to the head or the body.

Physical symptoms of TBIs include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the toes and fingers
  • Inability to wake up naturally from sleep
  • Clear fluid oozing from the ears and nose
  • Pupil dilation
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Constant nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent headache
  • Loss of consciousness for a short period

Mental or cognitive symptoms include:

  • Coma and other consciousness-related disorders
  • Slurred speech
  • Unusual behavior, combativeness, and agitation
  • Profound confusion

Symptoms in Children

Young children and infants with TBIs could experience confusion, sensory problems, headaches, the inability to communicate, and similar issues. Children’s symptoms often include:

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities and toys
  • Drowsiness
  • Depressed mood or sadness
  • Seizures
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Attention difficulties
  • Consolation difficulties and persistent crying
  • Easy or unusual crying
  • Change in nursing habits or feeding

Lasting Effects of TBIs

Permanent damage to the brain depends on the site and nature of the injury. The forehead region, or frontal lobe, regulates planning, impulse control, judgment, problem-solving, and reasoning. Damage to this area increases a person’s likelihood of engaging in risky or inappropriate behavior.

Trauma on the left side of the brain causes communication difficulties, challenges in understanding others, and logic-related issues. TBIs to the right side of the brain result in challenges in processing neglect, visual information, or apraxia — difficulty in executing familiar or regular tasks, such as speech.

Long-term effects of head trauma depend on the severity. These effects may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Impaired language skills
  • Balance issues
  • Paralysis
  • Fatigue
  • Visual changes
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Options

Each year, Brooks Rehabilitation assists hundreds of patients with brain injuries, helping them improve their quality of life through our care systems. Here’s a breakdown of the treatment options available at Brooks Rehabilitation:

Disorders of Consciousness

Brooks Rehabilitation offers a Disorders of Consciousness (DOC) program for patients who indicate a minimal or impaired conscious state. Patients in this particular population undergo comprehensive therapy and evaluation long before the standard rehabilitation process, which evaluates the patient’s ability to follow instructions and engage in a conversation.

Brain Injury Day Treatment Program

The Brain Injury Day Treatment Program includes therapy for persons with brain injuries who wish to transition from inpatient settings to home care. Brooks Rehabilitation developed the program to improve patients’ emotional stability, social skills, communication ability, and cognitive thinking as they gradually regain physical functions. It creates an environment for camaraderie, education, recovery, and growth.

Neuro Recovery Centers (NRC)

Our Neuro Recovery Centers have customized equipment for specialized physical therapy during and after standard treatment. This state-of-the-art gym helps patients exercise and condition their brains to enhance functional abilities and movement. The facility remains open six days per week.

Occupational Therapy

Our occupational therapy programs help patients re-learn activities for daily living (ADLs) in order to regain their independence. By regaining their abilities for self-care, those who’ve survived a traumatic brain injury are able to take control of their lives once more.

Aphasia Center

The Brooks Rehabilitation Aphasia Center (BRAC) helps people with aphasia gain the highest level of engagement and recovery in life. The facility provides training, education, and support in a stimulating communication environment for partners and other family members, depending on their needs.

Adaptive Sports and Recreation

Brooks Rehabilitation offers one of the nation’s most diverse and comprehensive adaptive sports and recreation initiatives. It includes opportunities for friendship, fitness, and fun for individuals with varying abilities and of all ages with visual and physical impairments.

Brooks Clubhouse

Brooks Brain Injury Clubhouse is another excellent resource for brain injury patients. The community benefit initiative creates an environment for social interaction so that patients and their loved ones will engage with others experiencing similar challenges.

Learn More About TBI Treatment at Brooks Rehabilitation

Brooks Rehabilitation offers a range of brain injury treatment programs. We are national pioneers in providing excellent care through continuous training and education, forward-thinking research, and cutting-edge technology. Contact us to learn more about traumatic brain injuries and our range of treatment options that will ultimately help you recover an optimal quality of life.

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