TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is a term frequently found in the medical records of car accident victims, but its meaning is often misunderstood. Confusion stems from the broad definition of the term, which encompasses many degrees of severity, to the nature of brain injuries themselves. TBIs can make a variety of mental processes more difficult, including the ability to understand information. It can take time for people who have sustained a TBI to fully grasp what has happened to them. In severe cases, it may be impossible.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury is any kind of injury that interferes with the way the brain normally works. TBIs can range from mild (concussion) to severe (oxygen deprivation). TBIs may or may not involve loss of consciousness or obvious visible trauma. The most common symptom of TBI is memory loss, but there can be many effects including physical problems (coordination, fatigue) cognitive problems (concentration, memory, and processing problems) and emotional and behavioral problems (restlessness, mood swings, lethargy, lack of self-awareness). TBIs can cause personality changes and decreased functioning that can be very distressing to victims and family members. The type of symptoms result, at least partly, from the location of the injury on the brain. In most TBIs, multiple areas of the brain are affected.
How TBIs Have Been Diagnosed in the Past
There are two traditional methods of diagnosing TBIs: CT scans and medical evaluations. Both are somewhat problematic. CT scans lack the detail necessary to identify anything but the most obvious kinds of TBI. Medical evaluations can be inaccurate because patients (like athletes or military personnel) are often motivated to appear healthy to avoid being sidelined. Unfortunately, these same groups are at a higher risk than the general public of being injured again. A medical evaluation performed by a trained neuropsychologist is likely to yield the most accurate result.
How TBIs Are Diagnosed Today
Technology has recently created new methods of identifying TBI: The Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, the EyeBOX, and DTI and SPECT scan imaging. The Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator is a blood test that measures certain proteins that are predictive of TBI with good accuracy if administered within 12 hours of the injury. The EyeBOX, which tracks patient’s eye movements, is effective if used within one week of injury. Perhaps most promising, however, are new types of imaging that can pinpoint areas of damage by measuring neurological activity: Diffuse Tensor Imaging (DTI) and Single-Photon Emission Computer Tomography (SPECT) Scans. These images can identify brain injuries years after they have occurred.
Identifying Damage Years Later
The ability to identify damage years later is important because about half of people who suffer even a mild TBI will experience long-term functional limitations and/or neuropsychological symptoms that they may not be able to recognize immediately. In helping these patients, traditional medical treatment often falls short. One recent study demonstrated the tendency of emergency departments to usher TBI patients out the door without an adequate explanation of what has happened to them. This study revealed that more than half of mild TBI patients received no follow-up care or even educational materials at discharge from the emergency department.
That is a shame, because TBI is treatable. There are neurological therapies, cognitive therapies, rehabilitation techniques and medications that can help. Even just finding out a TBI has occurred can be very helpful to an injured person by increasing self-reflection. That person can now say, for example: Wait a minute, that mood is just my TBI, that’s not me. Knowing you have been injured is the first step to healing.
We Can Help You Get Compensated
If you have suffered a TBI due to another’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical care, lost wages, and more. Call us. We want to help you.
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal