Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs because of sudden damage to the brain.
The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” The specific symptoms that manifest because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. For some, a TBI may only affect the exact location on the brain where the injury occurred, while for others a TBI could also affect surrounding tissues and cause damage to one’s brain in other areas apart from the initial site. Hence, some TBI symptoms may appear immediately and dissipate rather quickly, while others may present several days or weeks later, and some experienced symptoms may evolve over time. TBIs are divided into three categories based on their severity: mild TBIs (concussions), moderate TBIs and severe TBIs. Below is a brief overview of the definition of each TBI classification.
Mild TBI: Concussion
A specialized committee that falls under the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) developed the following definition: a patient with mild traumatic brain injury is a person who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- Any period of loss of consciousness;
- Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
- Any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused); and
- Focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient; but that the severity of the injury does not exceed the following:
- Loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less;
- After 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCD) of 12-15;
- Posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) not greater than 24 hours.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine explains that the term moderate TBI is used when “a person experiences changes in the brain function for longer than a few minutes following a trauma.” Symptoms of a moderate TBI are often like those of a concussion, but with a moderate TBI they do not dissipate and may worsen over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an individual with a moderate TBI will score 9 to 12 on the Glasgow Coma Scale.
The Brain Injury Association of America list the following three primary symptoms that indicate a severe TBI:
- Unconsciousness exceeding 24 hours (coma)
- No sleep/ wake cycle during loss of consciousness (LOC)
- Signs of injury appear on neuroimaging tests
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