A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by physical trauma. This type of injury can be especially dangerous, because the brain is a delicate organ, and damage to the brain can cause death or severe disability. There are a number of causes for traumatic brain injuries, and many nations have programs in place which are designed to reduce the risk of such injuries, ranging from safety evaluations of helmets used in sports to early intervention programs at hospitals.
Trauma to the head can come from a number of sources, including vehicle crashes, falls, and other accidents. In a closed head injury, the skull remains intact, but the brain is damaged as a result of a heavy impact, or of being wrenched around in the skull by the trauma. Penetrative injuries involve situations in which the skull has been breached. Someone with whiplash from a car crash might have a closed head injury, while someone with a gunshot wound to the head would have a penetrative traumatic brain injury.
Injuries to the brain can include bruising, tearing, and bleeding. Typically, the earlier treatment is provided, the better the prognosis for the patient. Early treatment can identify and address the problem with medication, surgery, and other medical recommendations which are designed to promote rapid healing. Doctors can also evaluate the risk of secondary injury, caused by a traumatic brain injury which contributes to ongoing problems, such as bleeding in the brain or changes in intercranial pressure.
Traumatic brain injuries can vary from mild to severe. Someone with a mild injury may experience a dazed sensation or other mild symptoms, while severe injuries can cause seizures, coma, and other very serious complications. It is important to receive treatment for any suspected traumatic brain injury, as a seemingly mild problem could develop into a serious one without medical evaluation and the appropriate action. Neurologists specialize in the evaluation of patients with suspected brain injuries and diseases.
It can sometimes be difficult to identify a traumatic brain injury. Some common signs include: altered behavior, fatigue, an altered level of consciousness, changes in pupil responsiveness, nausea, vomiting, loss of motor control, confusion, and slurred speech. Even a seemingly little accident can cause very severe damage in the brain as a result of internal bleeding. As a result, if even the slightest change of a traumatic brain injury exists, a patient should be taken to a hospital immediately for evaluation.