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Studies show that 1.4 million Americans will experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) this year, leading to 275,000 hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. These injuries may be mild to serious, and can lead to permanent mental damage and even death.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and Frazier Rehab Institute is working to increase awareness across the Commonwealth of the signs and symptoms of a brain injury.
“Traumatic brain injuries result from a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain,” said Darryl Kaelin, MD, Frazier Rehab Institute Medical Director, and Physical Medical and Rehabilitation Division Chief at University of Louisville Physicians. “They have become increasingly common in adults and children, so it’s important to understand how to determine if a person is at risk for, or suffering from, a head injury.”
There are many causes of TBI, with falls proving to be the most common. Falls disproportionately affect the youngest and oldest age groups. Other leading causes include an unintentional blunt trauma, like being hit by an object, and motor vehicle accidents.
TBIs are classified as mild, moderate or severe. Victims can display a wide variety of physical, cognitive and sensory symptoms, which can help classify the severity of the injury. About 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Concussions can appear right away or days or months after the injury.
Adults or children experiencing a concussion typically display loss of consciousness for seconds to a few minutes, a state of being dazed or confused, headache, nausea or vomiting, drowsiness or difficulty sleeping, dizziness and loss of balance. These victims may also experience blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell. They can show signs of mood swings, depression or anxious behavior.
Severe to moderate brain injuries include symptoms such as loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours, severe headaches, repeated vomiting, convulsions or seizures, pupil dilation, fluids draining from the nose and eyes, weakness or numbness in fingers and toes and loss of coordination. Victims may display profound confusion, slurred speech, agitation or combativeness, and in extreme cases, they will become comatose.
Individuals with severe TBIs will likely require hospitalization. Severe TBIs can result in coma or amnesia after injury. These injuries can lead to death or lasting brain damage. Approximately 5.3 million Americans live with a TBI-related disability.
“Traumatic brain injuries can affect all aspects of the patient’s life, and the lives of their friends and family,” said Dr. Kaelin. “Disabilities that develop from traumatic brain injuries can inhibit the victim’s ability to drive, complete household tasks, maintain employment and even uphold relationships. Our goal is to provide customized treatment and help restore patients to their fullest potential of independence.”
If you or someone in your care experiences a blow to the head, it is important to see a doctor right away. Do not wait for traumatic brain injury symptoms to occur.
If you or a loved one has a concussion or think you may, call the Frazier Rehab Brain Injury Program at 502.582.7476.