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A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the brain is damaged by an external force, such as a blow to the head. The term traumatic brain injury is usually categorized into three categories: severe, moderate and mild. Traumatic brain injuries generally result in a loss of consciousness and an impairment of cognitive and physical abilities as well as behavioral functioning. Approximately 5.3 million people are living with TBI-related disabilities in the United States.
Traumatic Brain Injury Levels of Severity
The severity of a traumatic brain injury is oftentimes based on the length of time a person had a loss of consciousness, the Glasgow Coma Scale, duration of post-traumatic amnesia, or the results of brain imaging.
Mild TBI is characterized by a brief loss of consciousness, typically ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. Post-traumatic amnesia for people suffering from a mild TBI lasts less than an hour following the injury, and brain imaging results come back normal. A mild TBI does not mean that the injury should be taken lightly and certainly does not indicate that the consequences and results of the injury are minor. Concussions are an example of a mild traumatic brain injury that can have lasting effects on a person.
Moderate TBI is characterized by a loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia ranging from one hour to a whole day. Abnormal brain imaging is expected in a person suffering from a moderate TBI.
Severe TBI is characterized by a loss of consciousness that lasts for more than 24 hours or results in coma. Post-traumatic amnesia for people suffering from a severe TBI lasts more than 24 hours after the injury occurred. Brain imaging results will show abnormalities.
In addition, severe TBIs may result in a coma or vegetative state.
The Glasgow Coma Scale is another system used to determine the level of consciousness in a person who suffered a TBI and the severity of the injury. According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah, The system measures three different functions: eye opening, verbal response, and motor response. All three functions are given a score — smaller numbers correlate with a more severe injury and a worse prognosis — and added together. If the final score falls between 3 and 8, the person is said to be in a coma. Patients who score between an 8 and 15 are believed to have a good chance of recovery, but may require some rehabilitation.
Common Results from a Traumatic Brain Injury
People suffering from a mild TBI can experience:
Decreased attention and concentration
People suffering from a moderate or severe TBI may experience:
Decreased interaction skills and executive function abilities
Reduced sense of smell, taste, touch, and hearing
Unfortunately, in some cases, traumatic brain injuries can result in death. Traumatic brain injuries contributed to more than 50,000 deaths in the United States in 2010.
After a Traumatic Brain Injury
The road to recovery after suffering a TBI can be lengthy, difficult, and taxing — physically and financially. Oftentimes those suffering from a traumatic brain injury, especially a moderate or severe TBI, will require years of care and rehabilitation to improve cognitive and motor functions, their quality of life, and help return them to performing daily activities.
Following a TBI, the first line of care that a person sees will likely be in an intensive care unit. Severe TBIs may leave a person unable to breathe and eat on their own, which will require the use of a ventilator and feeding tube. When a person is intubated, they will likely require extensive speech and swallowing therapy in the future with the help of a speech/language pathologist.
People who sustain a severe traumatic brain injury will be put through rehabilitation in a variety of settings, from acute care, post-acute care, outpatient, or home-health services. A host of healthcare professionals will be required to recover from such a serious injury. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, physiatrists, and neuropsychologists provide the treatment and care that is necessary to help those suffering from TBI.
Have You Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury?
If you or a loved one sustained a traumatic brain injury, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our injury attorneys have experience handling cases involving clients with severe, moderate, and mild TBIs. We understand that TBIs can cause financial hardships in addition to the physical, mental, and emotional pain associated with the injury. In addition to the medical costs of treating TBIs, these injuries can prevent you from returning to work. You deserve to be compensated for your medical bills, future and past lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish that you have been put through.