Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head. Common causes are car accidents, firearms, falls and sports injuries.

There are approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer a TBI each year.  50,000 people die and 85,000 people suffer long term disabilities. In the U.S., more than 5.3 million people live with disabilities caused by TBI.

The impact on a person and his or her family can be devastating.

Symptoms may include cognitive, behavioral and speech impairment, confusion, blurry vision, and concentration difficulty. Mild traumatic brain injury may cause disruption of brain cells with symptoms spanning days to years. More serious traumatic brain injury can result in brain bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain that can result in long term complications or death.

The kinds of treatment for TBI include initial stabilization sometimes including surgery.  Later rehabilitative care including socialization may be given.

Sports-related brain injury and concussion have finally begun to receive the awareness they deserve. But few people realize how common the problem of traumatic brain injury is for the elderly, especially for those who have a neurological condition—such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, dementia, and multiple sclerosis—that puts them at risk for falls. Remarkably, falls are responsible for more than one-third of all TBIs, and represent the majority of all TBIs in people over the age of 65, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sadly, adults aged 75 and older have the highest rates of hospitalization and death from TBI. Older age is also associated with more disability and poorer outcomes after a TBI.

What are the symptoms of traumatic brain injury?

With mild TBI, the individual may lose consciousness for a few seconds or minutes, but not always. The person may also continue to feel dazed for days to weeks after the injury. Additional symptoms may include trouble with memory, attention, concentration, or thinking; confusion; headache or lightheadedness; blurred vision or tired eyes; ringing in the ears; fatigue; behavioral or mood changes; or altered sleep patterns.

Moderate or severe TBI may causes the same symptoms, but headache may persist or worsen. In addition, the person may experience repeated vomiting or nausea, dilation of the pupils, numbness or weakness in the extremities, inability to wake from sleep, slurred speech, loss of coordination, increased confusion, restlessness, and agitation.

Tests like computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) currently available to neurologists, emergency physicians and other experts, cannot reliably identify who has sustained a TBI after a blow to the head, and who has not. There is a a potential improvement in diagnosis using a vision-based test.

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