What Are Brain Injury Types and Treatment?
A brain injury refers to any damage to the brain resulting in loss of its physiological, anatomical and psychological functions. Brain injury causes the death of all or some of the brain cells, which can lead to a diminished performance of normal physiological functions.
These injuries come as a result of an accident, illness, physical and emotional trauma.
True, every organ in the body is important. But some organs play vital roles than others. The brain especially is the powerhouse of the body.
Although it makes up only 2% of the human body’s weight, it controls the function of the entire body.
It is divided into two halves – the right and left hemisphere. These hemispheres are further subdivided into different lobes accounting for the various parts of the brain.
This jelly-like organ is suspended in a chemical fluid known as the cerebrospinal fluid. It is made up of billions of neurons and nerve cells. These cells perform important functions such as control of voluntary and involuntary movements, general sensations (like touch, temperature, pain, etc.), taste and hearing, and visual and smell sensation.
A thin, tubular structure called the spinal cord (spine) connects the brain to the rest of the body. Together, they make up the central nervous system
Any injury to this gelatinous organ will lead to its impairment. Sadly, about 1.7 million brain injury cases are recorded every year in the United States.
This article explains what a brain injury is, its types and symptoms, and possible treatments.
Types of Brain Injury
Although many types of brain injury exist, they are all separated into two categories. There is traumatic and acquired brain injury.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
As the name implies, traumatic brain injury is a type of brain impairment that is caused by a sudden physical damage to the brain such as a trauma to the head. As seen in motor vehicle accidents or a bullet passing directly through the skull.
Traumatic brain injury can lead to temporary or permanent impairment of the brain depending on the severity of the impact.
Acquired Brain Injury
Acquired brain injury, on the other hand, refers to any type of damage to the brain that occurs after birth. It could be as a result of a blow to the head, lack of oxygen, infection or disease.
The resulting impairment may be temporary or permanent and causes a range of partial or functional disabilities.
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
Some of the events causing traumatic brain injury include the following.
- Violence such as assaults, domestic violence, gunshot wounds, or violent shaking as seen in infants with ‘shaken baby syndrome’.
- Falls down stairs, from ladder or bed, or while bathing. Reach out and get legal professional help.
- Combat injuries and explosive blasts are also a cause of traumatic brain injury, especially in active-duty military personnel.
- Vehicle accidents: victims of a collision involving motorcycles, cars or bicycles may suffer from traumatic brain injury.
- Sports injuries: traumatic brain injury could also result from injuries incurred from sport (e.g. hockey, baseball, skateboarding, soccer, lacrosse, boxing, etc.) activities.
Causes of Acquired Brain Injury
Toxic Exposure: A prolonged exposure to noxious materials as seen in solvent sniffing, carbon monoxide poisoning, inhaling toxic chemicals, and excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol can cause damage to the brain.
Lack of Oxygen: Oxygen is necessary for the proper functioning of every organ in the body. The brain can survive a few minutes without oxygen. But if this persists, like in cardiac arrest, drug overdose, near-drowning, hypoxia or anoxia situations, it could lead to a condition known as ‘anoxic brain injury’ (a medical condition characterized by apoptosis of neural cells due to prolonged oxygen deprivation).
Stroke: Stroke, in form of embolism, thrombosis or aneurysm, is yet another cause of acquired brain injury. If a blood vessel inside the brain gets blocked or breaks, there will be little or no supply of blood to that region of the brain. This will lead to the death of the local tissues and eventually impairing the functions of the brain in general.
Physical Injury: Physical injury such as an impact or a blow to the head can also cause damage to the brain. The brain is suspended in a fluid inside the skull. When the head is struck hard, the brain bangs against the inside of the skull, causing the brain tissues to swell, twist, bleed or tear. Other forms of physical injury include assault, falls, and objects falling on the head.
Diseases: Acquired brain injury can also be caused by some diseases such as AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
It can be quite challenging predicting the exact symptoms of traumatic brain injury. This is because the mental, physical or behavioral changes that may result from head trauma depends largely on the part of the brain that is injured.
The signs and symptoms of TBI are categorized into physical, mental/cognitive, and sensory symptoms.
- Physical symptoms include nausea/vomiting, problems with speech, loss of consciousness, weakness or numbness in toes and fingers, convulsion/seizures, fatigue, sleeping problems (sleeping more than usual, inability to awaken from sleep, and difficulty sleeping), dizziness or loss of balance, confusion/disorientation, and dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes.
- Mental or Cognitive symptoms such as slurred speech, consciousness disorders (e.g. coma), memory and concentration problems, depression, anxiety, mood swings or mood changes, agitation, and aggressiveness.
- Sensory symptoms including ringing in the ears, sensitivity issues with light or sounds, changes in the ability to smell, blurred vision, and a bad taste in the mouth.
Symptoms of Acquired Brain Injury
Symptoms of brain injuries can be difficult to predict as they vary among individuals. The common symptoms of acquired brain injury are grouped into emotional, physical, social, and cognitive changes.
- Emotional changes are displayed through different means. Examples include emotional outburst, mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.), ‘short fuse’ irritability, anger management problems, loss of sense of self, frustration, and overwhelming sadness.
- Physical changes such as slurred speech, fatigue, chronic pain (headache and migraines), sleep difficulties, and problems with sitting, bathing, waling, and household tasks.
- Social changes including trouble with work and social relationship, awkwardness or inappropriate behavior, change in roles (if you were a caregiver, now you would need to receive care from others), family breakdowns, and isolating yourself because you feel different.
- Cognitive changes like being easily distracted, having a poor memory, confusion, impulsiveness, difficulty with decision making and judgments, problems visions, taking more time to make sense of an information, having problems with organizing or starting tasks, and issues with coming up with the right word.
Prevention of Brain Injury
- Avoid falls by installing handrails in bathrooms and on both sides of staircases. Removing area rugs, improving lighting in homes, and putting a non-slip mat in shower or bathtub is also helpful.
- Do not engage in drug or alcohol abuse. Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Always wear a seat belt in motor vehicles. Wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, motorcycle or skateboard.
- Be sure to wear the appropriate head protection when playing baseball, riding a horse, or skating, skiing, and snowboarding.
Treatment of Brain Injury
Treatment of both traumatic and acquired brain injury depends on the severity of the injury.
In most cases, mild traumatic brain injuries require no treatment. The patients are usually given over-the-counter drugs and asked to get some rest. The doctor monitors them closely for any persistent symptoms. It is advisable to limit cognitive and physical activities until full recovery.
Recovering from a brain injury might take awhile. It is a gradual process and the time of recovery differs with people. It is your doctor’s duty to indicate when you have recovered fully to engage in school, work or recreational activities.
Moderate or Severe Brain Injury
Immediate emergency care is given to patients with moderate or severe brain injuries. It involves activities aimed at providing adequate blood and oxygen supply to the injured patient.
Additional treatments in the intensive care unit are also given to minimize secondary damage due to bleeding, inflammation, or hypoxia.
Brain/neurosurgery is usually required while treating a patient with severe brain injury. Surgery is necessary to repair skull fractures, remove clothed blood, open a window to the skull and to stop bleeding in the brain.
Most severe brain injury patients will require rehabilitation for a full recovery. Patients who have issues with speech, walking, and basic skills will have to relearn these skills. Hence, the need for rehabilitation.
The type or duration of rehabilitation differs for everyone. It depends on the part of the brain that is injured and the severity of the injury. Different specialists are made available in rehab centers to help patients improve their lost skills, so they can perform their normal activities.
Some of the rehab specialists include the neuropsychologist, physiatrist, vocational counselor, speech and language pathologist, physical therapist, rehabilitation nurse, recreational therapist, traumatic brain injury nurse specialist, occupational therapist, and social worker or case manager.