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Brain and Head Injuries

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, sometimes called a TBI or intracranial injury, occurs when the head is hit with enough force to disrupt the brain’s normal functions. The two types of traumatic brain injury are closed head injuries and penetrating head injuries.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, about 1.4 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury each year in the United States, of whom approximately 50,000 die and 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency room. About 5.3 million Americans have a long-term or lifelong need for help in daily living as a result of traumatic brain injury.

The leading causes of traumatic brain injury are falls, traffic accidents, and violence.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Depending on how serious the brain trauma is, symptoms can be short- or long-term.

Mild traumatic brain injury can cause the following:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Fatigue
  • A change in sleep patterns
  • Behavioral or mood changes
  • Trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking

Severe traumatic brain injury can cause:

  • A headache that gets worse or does not go away
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion, restlessness, agitation
  • Loss of consciousness

Long-term, traumatic brain injury can cause epilepsy and can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders.

Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

Faculty at Barnes-Jewish & Washington University Neuroscience Center offer comprehensive treatment to all levels and stages of traumatic brain injury. When an injury first occurs, it is important to get emergency treatment as soon as possible, which can include neurosurgery. Stabilized patients with neurorehabilitation needs may be referred to our Concussion Clinic, Aphasia (communication difficulties) Clinic, or Neuropsychology Clinic, depending on the type and severity of injury and loss of brain function.

For a referral to a Washington University neurologist or neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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