Brain Injury 101

Aug 18, 2014
Tagged with: Brain Injury 101


1.7 million cases of traumatic brain injury occur each year in America and require hospitalization. In all cases, damage to the brain can cause changes of consciousness that may be short-term or longer lasting. Many patients stricken with TBI suffer with reduced levels of functioning in multiple areas of life. Despite the severity of its consequences and the frequency of its occurrence, traumatic brain injury is still widely misunderstood. Below is a deeper look at brain injury.

Types of Brain Injury

Cases of brain injury are divided into traumatic and acquired cases. Traumatic brain injury occurs as a result of impact to the head that damages the brain. While most traumatic brain injuries tend to result in broad and unpredictable damage to multiple areas of the brain, intensely focused sources of damage, such as bullets, can cause damage to specific sections of the brain. Acquired brain injury can occur as a result of cancer, electrical shock, blood loss, neurological disease or other sources of damage at the cellular level.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain injury can potentially be caused by any impact to the head, but certain causes stand out as far more common than others. For example, falls account for more than a third of traumatic brain injuries with 35 percent of the total. Car accidents are to blame for about 17 percent of cases. Strikes and assaults comprise 16 and 10 percent of cases of traumatic brain injury, respectively. For military personnel, explosions are a major source of TBI.

Effects of Brain Injury

The effects of brain injury, in the short term and the long term, involve both direct and indirect symptoms for patients as well as challenges for those who surround them. Depending on the location of brain damage, symptoms can include a wide range of problems affecting cognition, learning, emotions and sensation, with dramatic effects on behavior. Risks of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson’s, may be amplified. Sufferers are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and become depressed due to loneliness and recognition of reduced functioning. Family and friends of TBI sufferers may have trouble understanding the patient’s deficits and grow frustrated over time, highlighting the need for patience and understanding.

Standard Treatment for Brain Injury

In the time following severe brain injury, intensive care is critical to reducing long-term effects. Afterwards, rehabilitation can be tailored to fit the patient’s symptoms and improve functioning. Nurses, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists and others handle specific angles of treatment. Ultimately, the family and friends of the patient are key aspects of a successful outcome. More than nine out of 10 people suffering from moderate TBI are eventually able to live independently. However, brain injury affects patients differently and requires specific care and attention from medical personnel, family and friends. It is not uncommon for some deficits to persist in areas such as financial management and physical functioning. Fortunately, new scientific understanding of neuroplasticity in adults makes many experts optimistic about the potential for recovery in brain injury patients. Still, individuals supporting those with brain injury should have realistic hopes when assessing treatment options and supporting patients on the path toward recovery.

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Author: Shelly Duell

  • Shelly Duell

    What are some things that those of you all have learned about brain injury that was not of your knowledge until your experience either first handedly or through a loved one enduring it?

  • bobl07

    I think what’s important to remember is that people with TBI just want to be as active as anyone else. Most importantly, your posts have shown ways to do this. Thank you