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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)—Outlook & Recovery

Traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as simply TBI, can occur when someone receives a severe jolt, pound, or bump to the head. While all potential head injuries should be taken very seriously and require immediate medical assistance, not all head injuries will result in traumatic brain injury. Additionally, if someone does sustain a traumatic brain injury, the range of damage can be vast. Some may experience only a short period of mental difficulties that may or may not include a loss of consciousness or brief mental changes, and then fully recover. Others may sustain severe injury and experience a long state of unconsciousness, amnesia, and perhaps permanent brain impairment that could affect speech, movement, memory, capacity for learning, and more. Every traumatic brain injury is unique and must be evaluated by trained medical doctors and clinicians to fully understand the extent of the injury. Once the scope of the injury is understood, doctors can then form a treatment plan to help the sufferer recover to the fullest potential possible.

Occurrence and Immediate Emergency Treatment

There has been more media attention given to traumatic brain injury in recent years due to it being a common injury sustained by our troops in the battlefield; however, a traumatic brain injury can happen anywhere doing even the simplest of tasks. Falls are one of the biggest causes of traumatic brain injury.

When a head injury occurs, emergency medical team members and doctors first work to stabilize the injured patient to ensure their survival. It is critical that emergency medical professionals keep oxygen flowing to the brain, stabilize the patient's blood pressure, and monitor vitals. Only until the patient is stabilized can the team then focus on the extent of the traumatic brain injury.

Surgery is often needed right away in traumatic brain injury cases as clotting blood (hematomas) can put dangerous amounts of pressure on brain tissues. Additionally, if there are fractures or breaks in the skull, doctors and surgeons must work to clear skull fragments from the brain and set the skull. This skull repair will allow healing to begin in the area and within the tissues involved. In some cases where the skull is not fractured, or even when it is, surgeons may opt to drill a hole into the skull to relieve pressure or drain fluids that are building up.

Recovery Options

Mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, sometimes requires rest alone to heal to complete recovery. During this time patients should get plenty of restorative sleep and reduce physical and mental activity time. When working, even with solely mental tasks, a traumatic brain injury patient should take breaks and not overdo it. Full recovery in even mild cases of traumatic brain injury requires a stepped, slow process back to normal. Rushing the recovery process will only lead to it taking even longer to recover.
For more severe cases of traumatic brain injury, multiple forms of therapy will be required, sometimes for long periods, years, or even life.  Let's consider some of the types of therapy a traumatic brain injury sufferer may need.

Speech Therapy

Some patients may need to learn or relearn how to form words and communicate and sometimes they must learn how to use communication devices if actual speech is problematic.

Physical Therapy

Rebuild physical strength, flexibility, and coordination

Cognitive Therapy

Working to improve memory, attention, learning, overall perception, planning skills, as well as judgment skills


Occupational Therapy

To learn or relearn how to manage everyday tasks, such as dressing, bathing, cooking, eating, using the bathroom, washing, etc.

Vocational Counseling

Making a plan to go back to work, find work, or deal with potential difficulties in a work environment

Psychological Counseling

The effects of a severe traumatic brain injury can be emotionally devastating. Counselors can work with patients on general coping skills, help them manage their relationships, and improve their overall emotional state.

Medications for Treatment and/or Prevention of TBI Symptoms & Conditions

Some traumatic brain injury patients may need medications to treat symptoms of TBI or to reduce the chances of other severe complications, etc. Some of the types of medications, and their uses, are listed below.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

For nervousness, anxiety, fear

Antidepressants

For depression and to stabilize mood

Stimulants

To increase overall alertness as well as attention span

Diuretics

For removal of fluid that may be causing pressure within the brain

Muscle Relaxants

For reduction of muscle spasms

Anticoagulants

For prevention of blood clots

Anticonvulsants

For prevention of seizures

  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA