A mild brain injury is an injury to the brain associated with mild symptoms that resolve quickly. These types of injuries can lead to long term neurological problems like post-concussion syndrome, but permanent damage is rare when compared with moderate and severe brain injuries. Most commonly, a mild brain injury is caused by trauma to the head like a blow or fall where the skull receives the brunt of the impact. Treatment options generally consist of monitoring the patient and making sure the patient rests.
A person with a mild brain injury may lose consciousness, but not for more than 30 minutes. Temporary memory loss can also be observed and lasts less than 24 hours. While the patient may initially have an altered mental state and appear confused or distressed, a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13-15 should be observed after 30 minutes, with the patient being alert and active. A persistence of unconsciousness or memory loss is an indicator that a patient has a moderate or possibly severe brain injury, and the approach to treatment may change.
In addition to headaches and disorientation, mild brain injuries can cause temporarily blurred vision, nausea, slurred speech, and problems with executive function, among other symptoms. These problems should resolve quickly. Assessment of the patient usually does not require medical imaging studies, unless a doctor is concerned that injuries are still occurring inside the brain or is worried about the nature of the symptoms. Rest and plenty of fluids should be enough to help the patient recover from a mild brain injury.
In a complication of some mild brain injury cases known as post-concussion syndrome, the patient experiences headaches, behavioral changes, and difficulty focusing for days, weeks, months, or even longer after a brain injury. The causes of this complication are not well understood. Patients can sometimes benefit from psychotherapy to address the emotional symptoms and some may be offered medications to treat issues like depression associated with post-concussion syndrome.
People who experience recurrent mild brain injuries, such as athletes, can be at increased risk for developing neurological problems later. Studies on older athletes have shown that even with helmets for skull protection, athletes with a history of head injuries were more likely to experience memory loss and other problems with age. Wearing proper skull protection during sports is very important, as is resting completely after an injury; even if a patient feels fine, staying off the field to give the body and brain a chance to recover is recommended.