What is a traumatic brain injury?

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2015 | Injuries

What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how does it affect you or a loved one. In the case of a head injury of significance, most people would go to the emergency room to be evaluated by a health care professional. This is a way to know how severe the TBI is. They are classified into three categories; mild, moderate, and severe. According to Pate Rehabilitation over 75% of traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild. But what does this mean to you or what does this mean to your loved one? There are different tests done in the health care facility to evaluate how severe a TBI is. They base this off of factors such as how long they lost consciousness for, post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), and results from brain imaging. 

A mild TBI results in a short period of unconsciousness, this time frame is usually from a few seconds to a few minutes. The PTA is usually less than one hour after the occurrence of the event and the brain imaging results are normal. There are symptoms that are common for a mild TBI. There is a decrease in attention span and focus. Processing speed decreases, as well as an occurrence of memory problems. Some may seem generally confused. Mood swings are also common, along with being irritable or showing signs of depression or anxiety. Physical symptoms include headaches, tiredness, dizziness, vertigo, and nausea.

In the event of a moderate TBI, the patient has lost consciousness and PTA from one to twenty-four hours. They also have abnormal brain imaging results. Common symptoms include those of a mild TBI as well as being easily distracted, having impulsive actions, less interested in interaction, trouble problem-solving and planning. Emotional symptoms include those of mild TBI, but also show signs of dependency, being unmotivated, acting out, and denial. The patient also will have trouble speaking and be difficult to understand. They tend to have chronic pain, sensation difficulties, appetite changes, some to all loss of vision, unable to stand lighting, loss of hearing, trouble sleeping, tinnitus, reduced sense of smell and taste.

Severe TBI occurs when the patient has lost consciousness for over twenty-four hours or is in a coma. They have PTA for more than twenty-four hours after the event and have abnormal brain imaging results. Severe traumatic brain injuries are further categorized into four different categories. The first being a coma, this means the patient has lost consciousness and cannot be awakened. They could also be in a vegetative state meaning they are awake, but are unaware of what is going on in the environment around them. Another category is a persistent vegetative state which means they have been in a vegetative state for over one month. Lastly there is a minimally responsive state; they are not in a coma or vegetative state, but does not interact with their environment or stimulus consistently. The signs and symptoms of a severe TBI are consistent with that of a moderate TBI.


“Severity of TBI.” Severity of TBI. Northeastern University, 2010. Web. 9 July 2015. <http://www.northeastern.edu/nutraumaticbraininjury/what-is-tbi/severity-of-tbi/>. 

“Traumatic Brain Injury | Severity of TBI | Pate Rehab.” Pate Rehabilitation. 2015. Web. 9 July 2015. 

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