TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AND ITS EFFECTS
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused when the head suffers a sudden trauma. TBI is often diagnosed as a “concussion.” TBI can be caused by a car accident, fall, blunt object strike, sports injury, or explosive shock. The extent of damage can range from mild to severe. A TBI victim may or may not lose consciousness, but will likely experience some of the following symptoms: headache, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, lightheadedness, bad taste in the mouth, ringing in the ears, fatigue, mood changes, trouble with memory, trouble sleeping, inability to concentrate, or struggles with thinking and paying attention. More severe cases include symptoms such as a headache that gets progressively worse, repeated vomiting and nausea, convulsions, seizures, dilation of the pupils, slurred speech, loss of coordination, confusion, agitation, restlessness, numbness of the extremities, loss of consciousness, and inability to awaken from sleep. Longer-term symptoms are personality change(s), memory loss, and cognition difficulties.
A concussion is a brain injury and is a sign that brain tissue has been damaged. While most concussions resolve without permanent consequences, many do not. In addition to the initial insult, a brain may be damaged by a secondary effect.
Secondary brain damage occurs when the brain reacts to processes that are put into motion after the impact—for example, when the brain slowly bleeds or swells. In these cases, the injured person may appear fine or have only minor pain, but within 12 to 24 hours, the swelling can limit blood flow to the brain, resulting in coma, brain damage, or death. Brain injuries can also affect the metabolic function of the body and cause an imbalance of nutrients, blood sugar, and electrolytes.
Brain-Injury Patients Often Receive Inadequate Care
Brain injuries differ in severity. Severe brain damage can result in a permanent coma and vegetative state. Less severe brain injuries, known as mild TBI, can cause problems with seeing, balancing, remembering, learning, cognition, and difficulty performing activities of daily living that the person could easily do before. Fatigue may occur as formerly easy activities become more difficult because extra energy is needed by the brain to perform the same activities. Personality changes may be noticed by family members.
For those who suffer a brain injury, a lifetime of special care and therapy is often necessary. Studies of Medicaid and Medicare reports show that almost 244,000 people with brain injuries are in nursing homes that are incapable of properly caring for brain-injured patients. Most insurance policies do not cover the cost of brain injury rehabilitation facilities. Many families cannot afford to place loved ones in a specialized facility where the injured may live the highest quality of life possible.
What to Do in the Event of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Medical attention should always be sought immediately any time a head injury occurs, even if you initially “feel OK” after a blow or sudden jolt to the head. TBI can lead to permanent brain and nerve damage when cell death begins to cascade. Headaches after an injury are a telltale sign of brain injury. Disorientation can also occur. It is a good idea to seek medical attention, even if there is no headache and disorientation seems to be fading. Pain itself is not always the best indicator of whether one should seek medical attention.
TBI can only be detected by medical professionals. It is important to seek attention as soon as possible. The symptoms may be overlooked by a medical practitioner, so always keep thorough medical records and speak with an attorney for assistance in finding the medical professional best able to provide an appropriate TBI evaluation.
New imaging technology is useful for proving brain injury. An MRI is a good start, but people can have a brain injury even though the MRI is normal. More sensitive imaging technology (e.g., Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DIT)) is available but may require the patient to travel to access it.