A traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to damage to the brain caused by extreme force, such as a car accident or slip and fall. A brain injury is not caused by anything internal, such as a stroke or a tumor. It is entirely possible to experience a TBI and never lose consciousness. There are specific criteria used to identify the presence and severity of a traumatic brain injury. For example:
- Documented loss of consciousness
- The individual may not recall the traumatic events (amnesia)
- The victim may have a fracture, post-traumatic seizure, or abnormal brain scan due to their recent trauma
The Recovery Process
During the first couple of weeks after a traumatic brain injury, swelling, bleeding and changes in brain chemistry are common. The injured patient’s eyes may remain closed, and they may not display signs of situational awareness. As swelling decreases, brain function typically improves. With time, the eyes may open once more, sleep-wake cycles should begin, and commands may be followed.
Often, periods of confusion and disorientation follow a TBI. The fastest rate of improvement typically occurs within the first six months. Improvements may be witnessed first-hand between six months and two years after an injury, but this varies from person to person.
There are typically numerous questions from family members regarding long-term effects of a brain injury. Unfortunately, it is hard to determine long-term results for a few reasons:
- Brain injury is a relatively new area of treatment and research
- Brain scans are not always capable of showing the true extent of an injury
- The type of injury and degree of damage varies
- Age and pre-injury abilities affect recovery