Brain Injury

Overview

Traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain is damaged by a blunt or piercing force. Mild cases may cause confusion and temporary brain dysfunction. Serious cases can cause permanent brain damage, coma or death. It is important that medical treatment is sought after a severe blow or injury to the head, because delayed onset of symptoms can occur. The prognosis is usually better in patients that receive prompt treatment.

Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms that can be present after a traumatic brain injury, ranging from mild to severe. Someone who has experienced a traumatic brain injury may lose consciousness. This unconsciousness can last for several minutes to several hours or longer. It should be noted that not all those who suffer a traumatic brain injury will lose consciousness. A state of confusion, dizziness, poor balance, lethargy, and memory or concentration problems are characteristic of brain injury. These may occur at the time of the injury or have a delayed onset.

After a traumatic brain injury, dilated eyes that are sensitive to light and changes in vision – such as blurry or double vision – are common. Headache, irritability, personality changes and vomiting can be present as well. In severe cases, leakage of clear spinal fluid from the nose or ears, convulsions and seizures, numbness or tingling in the body and loss of bladder and bowel control may be seen.

Diagnosis

Traumatic brain injuries are usually assessed in an emergency setting. The Glasgow Coma Scale is a tool doctors use to quickly assess the level of brain function. In this test, doctors give patients instructions and base diagnosis on the patient’s ability to perform as instructed. After initial emergency treatment, a patient may undergo a CT scan or MRI in order to give doctors a picture of the brain and the extent of the injury. Doctors may also insert an intracranial pressure monitor to watch pressure on the brain and prevent further damage.

Causes

Common causes of traumatic brain injury include car accidents, falls, sports injuries, violence – such as abuse or gun violence – and explosion or combat injuries. These events result in damage to, or bleeding in and around, the brain.  Continue for Prevention information . . .

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