Have you or someone you know received a concussion or suffered from a head injury in an accident? Have you not felt the same since, or noticed behavior changes since the incident? Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are types of injuries that occur when there is sudden trauma or a blow to the head, causing damage to the brain.
The severity of the injury can range from mild to severe, causing both short-term and long-term effects. Especially if left untreated, the more severe injuries can result in lifetime complications or death.
TBI can affect an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning.
These effects may not occur immediately and may occur days or weeks later. Monitoring your symptoms is crucial in preventing long-term deficits. There are several common causes for TBI, for example, vehicle-related accidents (e.g., motorcycle or car accidents), falls (e.g., down the stairs, off the bed, in the shower), violence (e.g., gunshot wounds, child abuse, domestic violence), explosive blasts and combat injuries, sports injuries.
1. Symptoms For TBI
There is a wide range of symptoms for TBI, but based on the severity of the injury you may be more likely to experience specific symptoms.
Mild: Physical Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, and vomiting, fatigue, problems with speech, dizziness, or loss of balance. Sensory symptoms often include blurred vision, ringing of the ears, sensitivity to light, unpleasant taste in the mouth, or changes in one’s ability to smell. Cognitive or behavioral symptoms may include loss of consciousness for seconds of a time, memory or concentration problems, mood changes, feelings of depression and anxiety, difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, and a constant state of being confused or disoriented.
Moderate to Severe: In moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, all symptoms of mild injury are included. In conjunction with those symptoms, there are many other symptoms that may appear. Physical symptoms may include loss of consciousness for several minutes or hours, persistent headache, constant vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, dilation of pupils, inability to wake from sleep, numbness in fingers or toes, loss of coordination, or clear fluids draining from the nose or ears. Common cognitive symptoms are confusion, agitation or other unusual behaviors, slurred speech, and falling into a coma.
TBI in Children: Infants and children are also at risk of TBI and may have a more concentrated selection of symptoms. For example, a change in eating or nursing habits, easy irritability, persistent crying, change in their ability to pay attention, change in sleep habits, seizures, sad or depressed mood, drowsiness, and loss of interest in favorite toys or activities.
2. Treatment Planning For TBI
Based on the extent of the injury, there are many treatment plans that can help patients with TBI. Due to the severity of the injury, TBI treatment is highly individualized and one’s recovery may vary.
In more mild cases, treatments and strategies typically include physical and cognitive rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, symptom management (e.g., maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress and avoiding triggers that could make symptoms worse), and gaining a better understanding of TBI and their course of recovery.
In cases of severe TBI, treatment often includes a combination of emergency medical care, possible hospitalization and surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and long-term care and support.
However, in recent years the use of technology and brain stimulation has become more recognized in the
treatment plan for TBI. MeRT (Magnetic eResonance Therapy) is a form of brain stimulation that helps
the parts of the brain that are not communicating as they should.
A brain that is functioning optimally can lead to dramatic improvements and learning in all the traditional forms of therapy for TBI. Research articles on MeRT and TBI can be found here.
Severe cases of TBI often require emergency medical care and time spent in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The primary focus is on stabilizing the individual’s condition and ensuring proper oxygenation and blood
flow to the brain. Patients are commonly put in the ICU for close monitoring and specialized care.
Medication can play a large role in the treatment of TBI by managing symptoms, preventing
complications, and promoting recovery. As does the treatment for TBI, useful medications vary by
individual’s symptoms and the extent of their injury. Common medications include pain relievers, antiseizure medications, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and sleep aids.
Once stabilized, physicians will begin intense rehabilitation to regain function and maximize their
recovery potential. Their rehabilitation may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech
therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, and psychological support. Depending on the patient, rehabilitation
may be a long-term need. This can include continued therapy, assistive devices, adaptive strategies, and
support from professionals and caregivers.
Brain stimulation techniques are being explored as treatments for TBI, including TMS and MeRT. MeRT
attempts to modulate brain activity and promote neuroplasticity, which helps to facilitate recovery and
improve symptoms. Because TBI influences attention, memory, mood, and cognitive function, MeRT may
be a potential treatment option.