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March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month – Part II: Medical Issues Related to TBI

March 16 2018 | Blog
  • Even though the extent of damage can vary from mild to severe, a brain injury of any kind should never be taken lightly.

     

    This is part II of our three-part series on traumatic brain injury in recognition of TBI Awareness Month. To read part I, click here. Part III will be made available later this month.

    Brain Injury Awareness Month is a 4-week long campaign led by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA). 

    For over three decades, every March, BIAA has conducted engaging campaigns aimed at raising public awareness of the issues related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the struggles and success of its survivors. BIAA believes that by educating the public about brain injury and the needs of people who suffer from it, this widespread yet little-discussed problem will be de-stigmatized empowering TBI survivors to lead satisfying lives in a more inclusive society.

    Hughes & Colemans Personal Injury Attorneys wholeheartedly support this commendable effort. In recognition of TBI awareness month, this week’s blog post will explore some common medical issues related to brain injury.

    Defining Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

    A traumatic brain injury refers to any change in brain function caused by an external force. Most brain injuries of this kind occur after some kind of impact to the skull or surrounding areas. This may come about as a result of a fall, a motor vehicle accident, a sport or workplace injury, assault or military action, child abuse, or domestic violence. 

    While the possible causes are many, the types of trauma that can occur usually correspond to changes in the physical integrity, metabolic activity, or functional ability of nerve cells in the brain. Even so, because the brain is an incredibly complex and delicate organ, no two brain injuries are the same. Diagnosis, treatment, and recovery predictions are often case-specific. The extent of the brain damage, the resulting symptoms, and the degree to which it will affect a person’s life varies from patient to patient.

    Brain Injury Classification

    Traumatic brain injuries are often classified according to their severity into three distinct categories: mild, moderate, and severe. When evaluating the severity of a brain injury, doctors take into consideration the following factors: duration of loss of consciousness and coma rating score, post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), and brain imaging results. BIAUSA offers the following classification of brain injury according to the severity of the resulting symptoms:

     

    • Mild brain injury

     

        • Brief, if any, loss of consciousness
        • Vomiting and Dizziness
        • Lethargy
        • Memory Loss

     

    • Moderate brain injury:

     

        • Unconsciousness up to 24 hours
        • Signs of brain trauma
        • Contusions or bleeding
        • Signs of injury on neuroimaging test results

     

    • Severe brain injury:

     

      • Unconsciousness exceeding 24 hours (coma)
      • No sleep/wake cycle during loss of consciousness (LOC)
      • Signs of injury on neuroimaging test results

    A Concussion is Brain Injury Too

    A concussion is by far the most common type of traumatic brain injury. It may occur as a result of a direct impact to the head or due to a sudden momentum or movement change. A concussion often accompanies a whiplash injury; however, a mild traumatic brain injury can be caused even by violent shaking of the head. A concussion may be present even when there are no other signs of trauma such as skull fracture, brain bleeding, or swelling.

    While severe brain injury may result in a long-term coma, extreme limitations of one’s cognitive abilities, or lead to a vegetative state, the seriousness of suffering a comparatively mild traumatic brain injury should not be minimized. A concussion may result in damage that can potentially limit a person in their daily activities, prevent them from performing work they used to do, or even force them to apply for disability benefits. Author and Speaker Amy Zellmer, who suffered mild traumatic brain injury describes her life after the accident in the following way:

    I get confused easily. I forget things in seconds but can remember them days later. I suffer from constant vertigo and dizziness. I am up and down emotionally like a roller coaster. I am exhausted beyond comprehension. I grab for words that seem to have disappeared into thin air. My personality has changed, and I am aware of my mood swings. I have anxiety and panic attacks.

    Evidently, even mild brain injury can have severe and debilitating consequences. Zellmer was injured after slipping on an icy driveway, circumstances that may seem mundane to some. Without visible signs of damage and seemingly no initial symptoms apart from an intense headache, some victims may be tempted to brush off their injury as an inconsequential incident. Even so, the importance of receiving proper medical attention following a trauma to the head cannot be overstated.

    Recovery from a traumatic brain injury can be long, physically exhausting, and emotionally draining. Friends and family members of TBI survivors can do much to assist them on their road to recovery. Next week’s blog post will explore some practical ways of offering such help. We will also discuss legal issues related to TBI.

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