Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the brain is injured through sudden and intense trauma. Brain damage results from rapid acceleration of the head followed by a sudden deceleration resulting in the brain bouncing within the skull. It also occurs when an object enters the brain by piercing the skull. The consequent bruising and swelling of the brain can lead to mental, physical and behavioral disabilities. Brain damage received during such trauma is generally irreversible. A TBI can range from mild to severe depending on which part of the brain is injured and the degree of damage. The results of mild TBI may involve only confusion and a headache. A severe TBI can lead to death. A person with mild TBI may not experience unconsciousness at all or for only a short time ranging from seconds to minutes. Dizziness, headache, confusion, blurred vision, fatigue, moodiness and a change in sleep patterns are all signs of a mild TBI. In some people, such injuries may appear days or weeks after their accidents.
A person with moderate or severe TBI may lapse into a coma. His or her loss of consciousness may last days, weeks or even longer. Some patients remain in a persistent vegetative state. When a person emerges from a coma, s/he may experience the problems mentioned above as well as an unremitting headache, nausea or vomiting, seizures, slurred speech, greater confusion and coordination difficulties. Doctors use various methods to treat a patient with a brain injury. Oxygen must be supplied to the brain and blood pressure must be stabilized. Surgery may be necessary to remove or repair blood vessels in the brain tissues. Fluids may also need to be drained from the brain.
Recovery from a TBI often requires rehabilitation. This may include physical, speech, and occupational therapies as well as medicines and counseling to address social and relational problems. Some tips that have proven useful to those recovering from a TBI include: • use notes to remind you where things are or what needs to be done • get plenty of rest and take breaks when needed • avoiding activities that may lead to jostling of the brain, e.g. riding on roller coasters • wear a helmet when biking, rollerblading, etc. • don’t skip meals • avoid alcohol and/or other drugs not prescribed by your doctor • get help to compensate for lost skills (discuss such options with your physician)