What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury, often referred to as TBI, is most often an acute event similar to other injuries. That is where the similarity between traumatic brain injury and other injuries ends. One moment the person is normal and the next moment life has abruptly changed.
In most other aspects, a traumatic brain injury is very different. Since our brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality. A brain injury is different from a broken limb or punctured lung. An injury in these areas limit the use of a specific part of your body, but your personality and mental abilities remain unchanged. Most often, these body structures heal and regain their previous function.
Brain injuries do not heal like other injuries. Recovery is a functional recovery, based on mechanisms that remain uncertain. No two brain injuries are alike and the consequence of two similar injuries may be very different. Symptoms may appear right away or may not be present for days or weeks after the injury.
What are the Effects of TBI?
Most people are unaware of the scope of TBI or its overwhelming nature. TBI is a common injury and may be missed initially when the medical team is focused on saving the individual's life. Before medical knowledge and technology advanced to control breathing with respirators and decrease intracranial pressure, which is the pressure in the fluid surrounding the brain, the death rate from traumatic brain injuries was very high. Although the medical technology has advanced significantly, the effects of TBI are significant.
TBI is classified into two categories: mild and severe.
A brain injury can be classified as mild if loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation is shorter than 30 minutes. While MRI and CAT scans are often normal, the individual has cognitive problems such as headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swings and frustration. These injuries are commonly overlooked. Even though this type of TBI is called "mild", the effect on the family and the injured person can be devastating. Follow this link for more information on Mild TBI.
Severe brain injury is associated with loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes and memory loss after the injury or penetrating skull injury longer than 24 hours. The deficits range from impairment of higher level cognitive functions to comatose states. Survivors may have limited function of arms or legs, abnormal speech or language, loss of thinking ability or emotional problems. The range of injuries and degree of recovery is very variable and varies on an individual basis. Follow this link for more information on Severe TBI.
The effects of TBI can be profound. Individuals with severe injuries can be left in long-term unresponsive states. For many people with severe TBI, long-term rehabilitation is often necessary to maximize function and independence. Even with mild TBI, the consequences to a person's life can be dramatic. Change in brain function can have a dramatic impact on family, job, social and community interaction.
The number of people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is difficult to assess accurately but is much larger than most people would expect. According to the CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from a traumatic brain injury each year. 50,000 people die from TBI each year and 85,000 people suffer long term disabilities. In the U.S., more than 5.3 million people live with disabilities caused by TBI. Patients admitted to a hospital for TBI are included in this count, while those treated in an emergency room or doctor's office are not counted.
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