Considered one of the most common causes of disability and death in adults, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a broad term which describes a variety of injuries that happen to the brain. It often occurs when a sudden, external, and physical assault damages the brain, which can be either focal (found in one area of the brain) or diffuse (found in several areas of the brain). The seriousness of a brain injury ranges from a mild concussion to a severe injury that leads to coma or death.
Brain injury may occur in one of two ways:
- Closed brain injury – Caused by a rapid forward or backward movement, resulting in the brain to shake inside the skull. This type of brain injury typically leads to the bruising and tearing of brain tissue and blood vessels.
- Penetrating brain injury – Also known as open head injuries, this often occurs when there is a break in the skull.
Whether you suffered a closed or open brain injury, each has their own set of stages. The first is called the “primary brain injury,” which refers to the sudden and profound injury to the brain that is typically more or less complete at the time of the incident. Next is the “secondary brain injury,” referring to changes that occur over time (e.g. hours, days, weeks) after the primary brain injury.
Long-Term Effects of TBI
Although some brain injuries are mild with symptoms vanishing over time with proper medical attention, others are more severe and may lead to permanent disability. The long-term and permanent results of TBI may require post-injury and potentially lifelong rehabilitation.
The long-term effects of brain injury may include:
- Memory issues
- Problem-solving difficulties
- Judgement problems
- Shortened attention span
- Loss of sense of time and space
- Poor balance
- Poor coordination
- Decreased endurance
- Delays in movements
- Impaired ability to handle day-to-day activities (e.g. eating, bathing, dressing)
- Issues with organization or financial management
- Inability to operate a motor vehicle or machinery
Communication and language deficits
- Problems speaking and understanding speech
- Reading and writing difficulties
- Difficulty forming sentences
- Difficulty knowing how to perform common actions
- Issues identifying objects and their function
- Impaired social capacity
- Difficulties interacting socially
- Changes in vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch
- Loss of sensation or heightened sensation in parts of the body
- Left- or right-sided neglect
- Changes in eating habits and sleeping patterns
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Once the brain cells are destroyed or damaged, in most cases, they fail to regenerate. However, recovery post brain injury can occur, especially in younger people. In some cases, the brain reroutes information and function around damaged areas. The exact amount of recovery differs from case to case and it may not be known until months or years later.