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Traumatic Brain Injury

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Posted by on Thursday, January 27, 2011, 4:42
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Traumatic Brain Injury is also called acquired brain injury, or simply put – head injury and occurs when a sudden trauma occurs in the brain, damaging it or parts of it. Injury can result when an object suddenly pierces through the skull and enters into the brain tissue or when the head hits an object violently.

Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury

Symptoms of TBI can vary from mild to moderate and even severe, depending on the extent of damage done to the brain. A person suffering from milder symptoms may experience unconsciousness for a few seconds or minutes or may remain unconscious for a period of time. Other classic symptoms of TBI include severe headaches, lightheadedness, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, tired eyes, bad taste in the mouth, ringing in the ears, lethargy, fatigue, mood swings, behavioral pattern changes, change in sleeping patterns and even trouble with concentration, memory, thinking and attention.

A person suffering from moderate to severe symptoms will show all of the above symptoms, but in addition, will also complain of a severe headache that appears to get worse or just does not go away. Apart from this, the other symptoms are nausea and vomiting, seizures or convulsions, inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of the pupils, weakness, numbness in the extremities, slurred speech, increased confusion, loss of coordination, agitation or restlessness.

What are the Treatment Options?
Anyone showing signs and symptoms of moderate to severe TBI should always receive immediate medical attention. Since very little can be done to reverse the adverse effects of the initial brain damage that is caused by the trauma, medical professionals generally try to stabilize the concerned individual and instead focus on preventing any further damage or injury.

Primary concerns may include ensuring that there is proper supply of oxygen running to the brain and the rest of the body at all times, controlling blood pressure and maintaining adequate blood flow.

There are imaging tests that help to determine the prognosis and diagnosis of the patient. Patients suffering from mild to moderate symptoms may receive neck and skull X-rays to check for spinal instability or for any bone fractures. For moderate to severe injuries, the imaging test held is a computed tomography (CT Scan). Patients with such moderate or severe injures will be subjected to rehabilitation that would involve individually tailored treatment courses and programs in areas like occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, psychology, physiatry, and social support.

More than half of the patients suffering from severe TBI will need immediate surgery in order to repair or remove the ruptured blood vessels or hematomas or the bruised brain tissues or contusions. Disabilities that result from a Traumatic Brain Injury entirely depend on the severity of the injury, the general health of the patient, the age of the person, and the location of the injury.

Some common disabilities are problems with sensory processing (sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste), cognition (memory, reasoning and thinking), mental health or behavior (depression, aggression, anxiety, social inappropriateness, and personality changes), and communication (understanding and expressing).

Some of the more serious injuries can result in unresponsive behavior, a kind of stupor although the individual can be immediately aroused with the help of a strong stimulus like sharp pain. The patient will appear to be in a comatose state and will appear to be completely unresponsive, unconscious, unarousable and unaware. It is a sort of a vegetative state, in which the individual will be completely unaware and unconscious of his surroundings, but will continue to have brief periods of awareness, a regular sleep and wake cycle and will constantly be in a vegetative state for maybe more than a month – this is known as the persistent vegetative state (PVS).

What Research is Being Carried out?
The NINDS or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has been conducting experiments and research for Traumatic Brain Injuries at its laboratories at the NIH or National Institutes of Health. It also supports research for TBI by donating grants to other major medical institutions all over the country.

The research carried out includes studies performed in clinical settings and laboratories. Research is carried out to better understand TBI and the underlying biological mechanisms that result from damage made to the brain. This research allows scientists to develop new and interesting interventions and strategies to limit the primary as well as secondary damage that may occur within a few days of the injury. It also helps to devise new therapies to help treat head injuries and to improve long-term recovery of body functions.

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