Injuries to the head can be absolutely devastating, but when that injury penetrates to the brain, it becomes all the more problematic. Traumatic brain injury (TBI), or intracranial injury as it’s sometimes known, is caused by an external force that causes damage to the brain, and is usually the result of a fall, a violent blow to the head, and very commonly in car accidents. TBI is usually classified as mild or severe, with both having their own list of problems for the person who suffered the injury. Mild TBI usually results in the patient being unconscious for less than 30 minutes, and suffering from after effects such as headaches, memory issues, an inability to concentrate, and mood swings. When the diagnosis is listed as severe, that generally means that the patient is out for a period longer than 30 minutes, with memory loss that continues 24 hours after the injury occurred, with the possibility of a coma , or even death, a real possibility.
TBI and Auto Accidents.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous causes of TBI, with figures showing that over 2 million Americans every year are involved in an accident that leads to some level of brain injury. While most people survive such injuries, most are forced to live with a certain level of limited brain function after their injury. It’s estimated that 56,000 people annually die from TBI, and account for about 34% of all injury deaths in the US alone. Perhaps the most common cause of TBI is from car accidents, and statistics show that 28% of all TBI injuries are caused by a vehicular accident. The sad part is that most of those injuries could easily have been avoided, as a staggering 41% of all those accidents had alcohol as a contributing factor. Safety advancements in cars have seen the number of brain injury accident decline fairly steadily since the mid 80’s, but the numbers are still a little too high for comfort.
The initial signs of traumatic brain injury are sometimes missed in the ER, simply because the doctors are working so diligently on other parts of the body, oftentimes just working to keep the patient alive. This is especially true in car accidents when injuries to the body can be extremely brutal. The symptoms of TBI run the gamut from mild to severe,
and can be as simple as headaches, all the way up to coma, or complete memory loss. The patient is rated on a 15 point scale known as the Glasgow Coma Scale, which measures motor response (1-6), verbal response (1-5), and eye opening (1-4), with the final score being the total of all three. A score of 13-15 means that the patient is suffering from a mild form of TBI, and a 9-12 is listed as moderate. As the scale gets lower, the outlook for the patient becomes far bleaker with a 3-8 listed as severe disability, and anything lower than 3 meaning a vegetative state.
Upon arrival at the medical facility, the initial treatment for TBI is usually done by determining the severity of the injury, and then trying to resuscitate and stabilize the patient. Once that is done, it’s much easier for the medical staff to get a clear picture of how bad the brain damage is, and what the nest treatment step should be. Many patients may have to undergo some form of rehabilitation, which will mean daily care and exercise that are aimed at restoring as much normal brain function as possible. In severe cases this can go as far as having to re-learn how to do basic everyday tasks like tying laces or brushing teeth. Acute treatment of TBI means that the patient is put on life support in order to prevent or minimize and secondary injuries. In this case that usually means being put on ventilation, or into a medically induced coma to prevent any further injury. Oftentimes the only option that is left is surgery, and this is usually done to remove intracranial pressure, which can lead to severe brain damage and even death. TBI is very traumatic for the patient and their family, but modern medical advancements are giving more people the chance of surviving after a major accident.