Brain Injuries FAQs
The cost of treating a TBI can be financially devastating for a family. Estimates put the lifetime cost of treating a severe TBI at over $4 million. The average cost of treating all TBI injuries, including mild, moderate and severe injuries, is over $150,000 per victim. The cost of a stay in an acute rehabilitation facility can run as much as $1,000 per day.
The reality is that very little can be done to reverse brain damage that has occurred. However, doctors can work to reduce further injury, which is why it is critical to get a potential TBI victim medical treatment as soon as possible. Initially, doctors will focus on ensuring that sufficient oxygen gets to the brain and that blood flow to the brain remains consistent. A patient will also be closely monitored to make sure that the situation does not worsen. After that, TBI patients will usually receive rehabilitation in various areas such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as psychological and social support. Surgery is often needed for a TBI patient for a variety of reasons.
Most victims who believe they have suffered a TBI are initially seen in an emergency room. Because of the seriousness of a TBI and the potential for a TBI to worsen rapidly, doctors usually need to assess the situation as quickly as possible. When there is evidence of gross damage to the brain, such as hemorrhaging, swelling or contusions, these physical findings are detected by CAT-scan (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The Glasgow Coma Scale is also used in an ER setting to determine the likelihood that a patient has suffered a brain injury. The test focuses on a patient’s ability to follow directions, remember information and move their eyes and limbs. If a TBI is suspected, further tests such as a CT scan or an MRI are usually conducted to determine the type and extent of the brain injury.
Put in its simplest terms, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a sudden trauma occurs to the brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes a TBI as a “bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” This force may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness, resulting in an impairment of cognitive abilities and physical functioning. It can also result in the disturbance of behavioral and emotional functioning.
Because a TBI can range from mild to severe, the symptoms vary widely. Some common symptoms of TBI include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Communication problems
- Spatial disorientation
- Impaired judgment
- Reduced ability to multi-task
- Double vision or blindness
- Impaired sense of smell or taste
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Balance problems
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Mood swings
- Impulsive behavior.
The signs of a TBI do not always show up immediately after an accident. Sometimes, they do not surface for days, weeks or even months after the accident that caused the injury. For this reason, anytime someone is in an accident where a blow, jolt or impact to the head occurred, the victim should be taken to the hospital immediately for a thorough examination.
Anyone can suffer a TBI, but some groups are statistically at a higher risk than others. According to the CDC, almost 20 percent of all emergency room visits for a TBI are for victims under age 4. Another 20 percent of TBI victims are over the age of 75. Both of these groups represent victims who are more vulnerable to a fall or an accident that could cause a TBI. Males in all age groups are significantly more likely to suffer a TBI than their female counterparts. In addition, some occupations such as construction work expose workers to a higher risk of a TBI.
A TBI can happen under a wide variety of circumstances. Some common causes include car accidents, sports-related accidents, falls and violent crimes. According to the CDC, falls account for 32.5 percent of all TBIs each year. Although motor vehicle accidents cause 17.3 percent of all TBIs, they account for 31.8 percent of all TBI deaths. In many instances, another person’s negligence is responsible for causing a traumatic brain injury.
Cerebral contusions are essentially bruises on the brain. The brain is susceptible to a bruise just as any other part of the human body. In a head injury, the brain often hits the skull with enough force to bruise the brain. Cerebral contusions must be diagnosed and treated immediately to prevent swelling of the brain, which can be life-threatening. If the brain swells, surgery may be necessary to reduce the intracranial pressure.