What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any external force or trauma that results in injury to the brain.
Most TBIs are the result of the brain jostling within the skull violently after a force or impact. This can cause bleeding, bruising, or shearing of the nerve fibers (axons). Other TBIs may be caused by an object penetrating the skull and damaging the brain directly.
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What Are the Symptoms of a TBI?
Common symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) may include:
- Feeling dazed, confused, or disoriented
- Temporary loss of consciousness (up to a few minutes) after the initial injury
- Sensory problems (blurred vision, ringing in the ears, etc.)
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Mood changes
You don’t necessarily need to experience all these symptoms to be diagnosed with a mild TBI. For example, many people never lose consciousness, but still develop other physical, emotional, and cognitive problems.
Mild TBIs are often difficult to diagnose because symptoms aren’t always obvious to outside observers, and sufferers may have normal-looking MRI and CT scans. Partly as a result, most contentious legal claims following brain injuries are for mild TBIs, rather than moderate or severe TBIs (which have more severe symptoms that are impossible to dispute).
If you believe you may have suffered a TBI, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What Is the Difference Between a Child Brain Injury and an Adult Brain Injury?
A child who suffers a traumatic brain injury is likely to have a worse prognosis than an adult. However, noticeable symptoms may not become obvious until months or even years later.
A child’s brain is rapidly developing. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for executive functioning and decision-making, doesn’t truly begin to develop until adolescence and beyond. As a result, very young children who suffer serious brain injuries may continue to hit normal development milestones. Cognitive impairments might not be obvious until later in childhood and adolescence.
If you are pursuing a personal injury case for a child who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is important to work with an attorney who understands the differences between child and adult brain injuries and has experience handling childhood TBI cases successfully.
What Should I Do If I Have Headaches After an Accident?
Most people who suffer concussions or mild head injuries experience headaches. But if those headaches continue to persist—particularly longer than three weeks—it should be a warning sign that you need to follow up as soon as possible with your doctor.
Give your medical team a detailed description of your headaches, how often they occur, and how often you have them. It may also be wise to ask for a referral to a neurologist, who is a physician who specializes in brain and nerve issues.
Fortunately, for most people, the headaches will gradually go away. However, some victims continue to deal with post-traumatic migraines, which can be a life-changing injury. In either case, seeking treatment as early as possible can not only improve your medical outlook, but it also will provide critical evidence to support any personal injury claim you choose to pursue.
What Are the Symptoms of Post-Concussive Syndrome?
Common symptoms of post-concussive syndrome include:
- Memory disturbances
- Mood disturbances
- Inability to focus
- Difficulty with word-finding
- Visual disturbances
Typically, doctors will diagnose post-concussion syndrome if three or more classic symptoms are present for a sustained period of time after a concussion (or mild TBI).
Most people with post-concussive syndrome do eventually get better, even without treatment. However, about 15 to 20 percent of patients develop a persistent post-concussive syndrome that lasts six months or more. Further, most doctors agree that if you are still experiencing symptoms two years after the initial head injury, they will likely persist for the rest of your life.
How Can I Have a TBI if My Hospital Scans Are Normal?
Normal brain scans are expected in the case of a mild TBI. Because the damage to brain cells in a mild TBI happens on a microscopic level, conventional brain scans like MRIs or CT scans usually aren’t sensitive enough to detect them. A normal doesn’t always mean a normal brain.
If damage to the brain is visible on an MRI or CT, that almost always means the patient has a moderate to severe TBI. Identifying a mild TBI on a brain scan usually requires the use of more sensitive (and far more expensive) imaging technologies that aren’t available or don’t get run in a typical hospital ER.
What Are the Classifications of Traumatic Brain Injury?
Doctors will classify brain injuries as either mild, moderate, or severe, typically during the initial period right after the accident.
- Mild: A mild TBI diagnosis is made if the patient lost consciousness for less than 30 minutes (or not at all), had less than 24 hours of post-traumatic amnesia, and experiences other common symptoms of TBI (headaches, dizziness, mood disorders, etc.)
- Moderate: A person with a moderate TBI may have lost consciousness for up to 24 hours or more. There are usually noticeable neurological deficits associated with specific parts of the brain that were damaged (such as speech problems, vision problems, or loss of control over a specific area of the body).
- Severe: The patient is often in a coma, completely non-functioning, and unlikely to fully recover.
While TBIs are often classified just hours or days after the injury, long-term outcomes for people with mild TBI are highly variable. While most people make a full recovery, some experience long-term, or even permanent, post-concussion syndrome with life-changing symptoms.
What are the Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury?
The leading causes of traumatic brain injury include falls, motor vehicle crashes, being struck by an object, and assaults. Those causes represent more than 80 percent of all known causes of TBI based on emergency room admission data collected in the United States.
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