Brain Injury

What is traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden, external, physical assault damages the brain. It is one of the most common causes of disability and death in adults. TBI is a broad term that describes a vast array of injuries that occur to the brain. The damage can be focal (confined to one area of the brain) or diffuse (occurs in more than one area of the brain). The severity of a brain injury can range from a mild concussion to a severe injury that results in coma or even death.

Each year, about 1.4 million people in the U.S. experience a brain injury, and 230,000 are hospitalized and survive. Each year, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. will die following traumatic brain injuries.

What are the symptoms and possible results of brain injury?

Some brain injuries are mild, with symptoms disappearing over time with proper attention. Others are more severe and may result in permanent disability. The long-term or permanent results of brain injury may require post-injury and possibly lifelong rehabilitation. Effects of brain injury may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Severe tiredness (fatigue)
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble thinking
  • Mood changes
  • Personality changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Trouble waking up
  • Problems with coordination
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs

Traumatic Epilepsy

Epilepsy can occur with a brain injury, but more commonly with severe or penetrating injuries. While most seizures occur immediately after the injury, or within the first year, it is also possible for epilepsy to surface years later. Epilepsy includes both major or generalized seizures and minor or partial seizures.

Can the brain heal after being injured?

Most studies suggest that once brain cells are destroyed or damaged, for the most part, they do not regenerate. However, recovery after brain injury can take place, especially in younger people, as, in some cases, other areas of the brain compensate for the injured tissue, or the brain learns to reroute information and function around the damaged areas. The exact amount of recovery is not predictable at the time of injury and may be unknown for months or even years. Each brain injury and rate of recovery is unique. Recovery from a severe brain injury often involves a prolonged or lifelong process of treatment and rehabilitation.

Brain injury rehabilitation

The success of rehabilitation depends on many variables. Areas covered in brain injury rehabilitation programs may include:

  • Self-care skills, including activities of daily living (ADLs) — Feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, toileting, and sexual functioning
  • Physical Care — Nutritional needs, medications, and skin care
  • Mobility Skills — Walking, transfers, and self-propelling a wheelchair
  • Communication Skills — Speech, writing, and alternative methods of communication
  • Cognitive Skills — Memory, concentration, judgment, problem solving, and organizational skills
  • Socialization Skills — Interacting with others at home and within the community
  • Vocational Training — Work-related skills
  • Pain Management — Medications and alternative methods of managing pain
  • Psychological Testing and Counseling — Identifying problems and solutions with thinking, behavioral, and emotional issues
  • Family Support — Assistance with adapting to lifestyle changes, financial concerns, and discharge planning
  • Education — Patient and family education and training about brain injury, safety issues, home care needs, and adaptive techniques 

Click here to learn about neurological rehabilitation programs at Spectrum Health Lakeland. 

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