Life, Death and Traumatic Brain Injury!

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a non-congenital and non-degenerative damage to the brain caused by any external agent. TBI can lead to temporary or permanent disablement in the psychosocial, physical or cognitive functions of the victim’s body. A few patients also experience altered or impaired consciousness.

What are the symptoms of TBI?

TBI occurs when an external force such as a jolt, blow or bump causes damage to the brain. In worst cases, people suffer from permanent brain damage or death. According to a report, the majority of TBIs happen due to motorbike accidents. Armed personnel deployed in extra sensitive areas like combat zones are also vulnerable to TBI.
In mild cases, the patient suffers from tinnitus, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, pain in the neck or headache. However, in case of moderate and severe injuries, patients show the following symptoms in addition to the ones mentioned above-

  • A constant headache that only worsens with time;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Seizures and convulsions;
  • Not being able to wake up from sleep;
  • Difficulty in speaking;
  • A feeling of weakness in legs and arms. Numbness may also occur; and
  • Dilation of the eyes’ pupils.

What causes Traumatic Brain Injury?
There are many causes of TBI, but the most common ones include firearms, falls and road accidents. And the insult to the brain caused by the factors mentioned here may be divided into the following categories-

  1. Open Head Injuries;
  2. Closed Head Injuries;
  3. Toxic or chemical injuries;
  4. Lack of oxygen or hypoxia;
  5. Diffuse Axonal Injury (Deceleration Injuries);
  6. Brain tumours;
  7. Certain infections; and
  8. Stroke

How to know if a traumatic brain injury is mild or severe?
A brain injury may be rendered mild if the patient experiences a loss of consciousness or other symptoms such as disorientation and confusion only for a period of 30 minutes. CAT scans and MRI run on such patients often show normal results. But the fact that the victim continues to struggle for some time with issues such as frustration, mood alterations, attention problems, memory impairment, problems in thinking or reasoning, and headache becomes a matter of concern for their family members.
An injury may be called severe if loss of consciousness and other symptoms mentioned above last for more than 30 minutes. In cases when there is memory loss, it can extend up to 24 hours of the injury, or even more. All kinds of high-level cognitive functions get impaired and sometimes, a state of coma may be reached. Even if the patient survives, a host of issues like slurred speech, disability in thinking, limited movement in arms and legs may continue to bother them.
What are the effects of a traumatic brain injury?
The effects may be profound. A lot of severe brain injury survivors assume a vegetative state. Some others experience improvement by undergoing a thorough rehabilitation session. These sessions are often run for a long period of time and are aimed at maximizing the victim’s independence. Even mild injuries may have dramatic impact on one’s life in areas such as family, career, and society.
Diagnosis and treatment of TBI-
Almost all traumatic brain injuries are examined with the help of imaging and neurological tests. Because the effects of TBI on an individual may be varied, there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment option for this medical condition. More often than not, the type of treatment and its results depend on the kind of injury received by the patient. Medical experts prescribe rehabilitation to survivors as most of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bottom line is that, a traumatic brain injury can be too taxing both on the victim and their near and dear ones. And since no sure-shot cure is available, the adage, “Prevention is better than cure!” perfectly fits here.

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