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NINDS Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page

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Synonym(s):   Head Injury, 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.  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?

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 insuring 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 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts TBI research in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports TBI research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. This research involves studies in the laboratory and in clinical settings 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.

More information about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research is available at:  http://www.ninds.nih.gov/research/tbi/index.htm

NIH Patient Recruitment for Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Acoustic Neuroma Association
600 Peachtree Parkway
Suite 108
Cumming, GA   30041
info@anausa.org
http://www.anausa.org
Tel: 770-205-8211 877-200-8211
Fax: 770-205-0239/877-202-0239

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 Trauma Foundation
7 World Trade Center 250 Greenwich Street
34th Floor
New York, NY   10017
education@braintrauma.org
http://www.braintrauma.org
Tel: 212-772-0608
Fax: 212-772-0357

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)
8201 Corporate Drive
Suite 600
Landover, MD   20785
naricinfo@heitechservices.com
http://www.naric.com
Tel: 301-459-5900/301-459-5984 (TTY) 800-346-2742
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: 202-245-7460 202-245-7316 (TTY)

 
Related NINDS Publications and Information
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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 updated April 16, 2014