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NINDS Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page


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Synonym(s):  Brain Injury
Condensed from Traumatic Brain Injury: Hope Through Research


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What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Every TBI is different, and symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.

Is there any treatment?

The best treatment for TBI is prevention, such as wearing a seatbelt when in a motor vehicle, and wearing a properly fitted helmet when riding a bike or playing sports like hockey or football. Anyone with signs of moderate or severe TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible. Because little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, medical personnel try to stabilize an individual with TBI and focus on preventing further injury. Primary concerns include ensuring proper oxygen supply to the brain and the rest of the body, maintaining adequate blood flow, and controlling blood pressure. Imaging tests help in determining the diagnosis and prognosis of a TBI patient. Patients with mild to moderate injuries may receive skull and neck X-rays to check for bone fractures or spinal instability. For moderate to severe cases, the imaging test is a computed tomography (CT) scan. Moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation that involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support.

What is the prognosis?

Approximately half of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual. Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness). More serious head injuries may result in stupor, an unresponsive state, but one in which an individual can be aroused briefly by a strong stimulus, such as sharp pain; coma, a state in which an individual is totally unconscious, unresponsive, unaware, and unarousable; vegetative state, in which an individual is unconscious and unaware of his or her surroundings, but continues to have a sleep-wake cycle and periods of alertness; and a persistent vegetative state (PVS), in which an individual stays in a vegetative state for more than a month.

What research is being done?

The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.  The NINDS conducts TBI research and supports research through grants to major medical institutions.  NINDS-funded research involves studies to better understand TBI and the biological mechanisms underlying damage to the brain.  This research will allow scientists to develop strategies and interventions to limit the primary and secondary brain damage that occurs within days of a head trauma, and to devise therapies to treat brain injury and improve long-term recovery of function.

NINDS-supported scientists are working to better understand the factors that contribute to TBI.  Research includes investigating the lasting effects of a single head injury vs. repetitive injuries to the brain.  A key objective is to identify and develop noninvasive ways of detecting and monitoring brain injuries.

One major challenge to delivering drug therapies for TBI is dealing effectively with the blood-brain barrier, which plays a key role in protecting the brain from potentially harmful substances. However, it also limits the ability of potentially beneficial agents from reaching the brain. Researchers are exploring ways of combining neuroprotective agents with membrane transporters that are able to carry medications across the blood-brain barrier.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Brain Injury Association of America, Inc.
1608 Spring Hill Rd
Suite 110
Vienna, VA 22182
braininjuryinfo@biausa.org
http://www.biausa.org
Tel: 703-761-0750; 800-444-6443
Fax: 703-761-0755

Brain Injury Resource Center
P.O.Box 84151
Seattle, WA 98124
brain@headinjury.com
http://www.headinjury.com
Tel: 206-621-8558
Fax: 206-329-4355

Brain Trauma Foundation
1999 S. Bascom Avenue
Suite 1040
Campbell, CA 95008
infogroup@braintrauma.org
http://www.braintrauma.org
Tel: 408-369-9735
Fax: 408-369-9865

Family Caregiver Alliance/ National Center on Caregiving
785 Market St.
Suite 750
San Francisco, CA 94103
info@caregiver.org
http://www.caregiver.org
Tel: 415-434-3388; 800-445-8106
Fax: 415-434-3508

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
8400 Corporate Drive
Suite 500
Landover, MD 20785
naricinfo@heitechservices.com
http://www.naric.com
Tel: 301-459-5900; 800-346-2742; 301-459-5984 (TTY)
Fax: 301-562-2401

National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Suite B
Centennial, CO 80112-3747
info@stroke.org
http://www.stroke.org
Tel: 303-649-9299; 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Fax: 303-649-1328

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-7100
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr
Tel: 202-2401-2000; 202-245-7316 (TTY)

Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation
10 Main Street, Suite 335
Woodbridge, NJ 07095
info@hydrocephaluskids.org
http://www.HydrocephalusKids.org
Tel: 732-634-1283

ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation
1801 N. Mill Street
Suite F
Naperville, IL 60563
thinkfirst@thinkfirst.org
http://www.thinkfirst.org
Tel: 630-961-1400; 800-THINK-56 (844-6556)

National Library of Medicine (NLM)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
8600 Rockville Pike, Bldg. 38, Rm. 2S10
Bethesda, MD 20894
http://www.nlm.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-6308; 888-346-3656

Related NINDS Publications and Information
Publicaciones en Español


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified September 8, 2016