March 26, 2018
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and for 2018 there’s a special focus on public education, de-stigmatizing this kind of traumatic injury and promoting the many kinds of support that are available. The #ChangeYourMind campaign is an important step toward helping people understand how serious these injuries can be, and how they can be treated.
For all of us at Goodman Campbell, this is a topic close to our hearts. We see nearly 1,000 adult traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients each year, as well as hundreds more through Riley Children’s Health. And we treat these patients over the long term—our follow-up clinic is designed to ensure our patients receive all the services they need once they leave the hospital.
But hopefully, with a little education, we can help prevent these injuries from happening, or lessen their severity when they do.
What is traumatic brain injury?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, jolt, blow, or penetrating injury that interrupts normal brain function. Falls are one of the most common causes, largely due to our aging population. Elderly patients are especially vulnerable to TBIs caused by falls.
Accidents are another common cause; something as simple as hitting your head on a kitchen cabinet can result in a TBI. Motorized vehicle accidents are also responsible for a large percentage of TBIs. But in all cases, the root cause is essentially the same: an outside force results in a serious injury to the brain.
What are the signs of a possible brain injury?
The most important thing to watch out for is the loss of consciousness. If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury that results in losing consciousness, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. We don’t say that to scare you—in the vast majority of cases, this symptom alone isn’t enough to indicate something really bad. However, it is a clear sign that a serious injury has taken place, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
Other signs to watch out for include neurological deficits, confusion, or even a bad headache. If someone appears to have trouble with their thinking, behaves differently, has difficulty moving or controlling part of their body, or just can’t seem to shake the lingering effects of a head injury, it’s important to seek help.
And please—call 911. While it can be tempting to drive yourself or a loved one to the hospital after an injury, certain kinds of trauma may be exacerbated by more movement. It isn’t worth the risk.
How is brain injury treated?
Treatment depends largely on the severity of the injury. In general, our first goal with injury management is to prevent more bad things from happening. Untreated brain injuries can result in secondary symptoms, brain swelling, and even death. For serious brain injuries, patients are managed in an intensive care unit to ensure patient safety.
Mild and moderate injuries tend not to pose these kinds of additional risks, but patients may still require rehabilitation. While there’s no magic pill we can give patients to make them instantly well, we can significantly improve outcomes through physical, occupational, and speech therapies, as well as cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation.
During this process, we also monitor patients to determine when they’re ready to return to play, school, or work. Our goal is to help patients get the rest and rehabilitation necessary to get them well again.
Goodman Campbell is committed to understanding and treating traumatic brain injury, both in our clinic and through our active involvement in furthering research. Through studies funded by the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defense, we’re learning more about how to provide the best outcomes for our patients.