Traumatic brain injury, also called TBI, occurs when the brain is injured by a sudden force, or trauma. The brain can be driven into the side of the skull by a sudden blow, or by the force of shaking or whiplash. In either case, the brain can suffer bruising and swelling, and in some cases the impact will be sufficient to tear blood vessels in the brain, causing intracranial bleeding.
If the trauma results in damage to the skull itself, such as a crack or break, the trauma is considered a penetrating head injury. More difficult to diagnose are closed head injuries, in which the brain is injured but the skull remains undamaged. This can occur from a blow or impact, or from severe back-and-forth shaking, such as whiplash.
There are numerous diagnostic tests available to determine the severity of TBI. These tests include electroencephalogram (EEG), SPECT scan, PET scan, MRI and CAT scans. A new test, called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), detects the intra-cellular relationship of brain metabolites. This test can help “objectify” a brain injury.
In any case of closed head TBI, it is necessary to study the symptoms that follow the accident in order to diagnose the condition. Anyone who has sustained a blow to the head or whiplash-like injuries should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine if TBI has taken place. In many cases, the symptoms may be so slight as to escape the victim’s notice, but if treatment is not available, further injury can develop. Often the symptoms may be delayed for many hours, until swelling in the brain reaches a point that if affects the victim.
TBI can cause serious, life-threatening events and can result in permanent irreversible damage to the brain. It can lead to seizures, blindness, memory loss, impaired communication skills, and many other disabilities. Symptoms may be as obvious as coma or as subtle as a change in emotional behavior. TBI can have a profound effect on the quality of life, including the inability to work, inability to interact appropriately with friends and family, loss of normal body skills and function, as well as other ailments and problems.