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Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, results from sudden head trauma that interrupts brain function. This can be caused by direct or indirect force, by rotational and/or deceleration with both direct and indirect force, if the head abruptly and forcefully hits an object, or when an object penetrates the skull and damages brain tissue.  Rapid force or rapid deceleration of the head can cause the brain to strike the inside hard surface of the skull, which is a bony vault.

The severity of traumatic brain injury is determined by several factors, including the nature, speed, and location of the brain’s movement and impact. In the U.S., approximately 1.6 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Interestingly, persons with mild, moderate, or even severe traumatic brain injury often display many of the same symptoms, although some indications are exclusive to one or the other. Someone with mild TBI may experience disorientation with no actual loss of consciousness, or may experience only a brief loss of consciousness remaining unconscious for a few seconds or minutes, while the symptoms of moderate TBI are similar but usually more serious and long lasting.

Some common signs of both mild and moderate TBI include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds or a few minutes
  • No loss of consciousness, but being dazed, confused or disoriented.
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual.
  • Behavioral or mood changes

A person with severe TBI may remain unconscious for 24 hours or more, and frequently exhibits the same symptoms as a victim of mild TBI, with some differences:

  • Severe headache
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Inability to awaken
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion, anxiety, or restlessness

Treatment and Prognosis

Even mild TBI can have devastating and permanent effects on the victim and his family. Anyone with signs of traumatic brain injury should seek medical care immediately. Although little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, medical treatment will usually focus on stabilizing the victim to prevent further injury. Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity and location of the injury, and the age and general health of the victim.

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