Traumatic brain injury, also referred to as commotio cerebri, describes an injury or damage to the brain as a result of a stroke or a heavy blow to the head. Concussion is the mildest form of a traumatic brain injury.

Definition of traumatic brain injury

The brain is actually well protected by the skull bones. Despite this, heavy trauma to the head can cause brain damage. Falls and traffic accidents are the most common causes of traumatic brain injury. 

Depending on whether there is a opening in cranial cavity as a result of the injury or not, this is known as open or closed traumatic brain injury.

Severity of the trauma

Depending on the severity of the brain injury, it can cause various symptoms and consequences. A severe traumatic brain injury is life-threatening and one of the most common causes of death in young people.

Symptoms

The following symptoms often occur with a mild concussion:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • vomiting

In the event of a severe concussion, the following symptoms may also occur:

  • Memory lapses
  • Confusion
  • Speech problems
  • Epileptic seizures

The symptoms may occur immediately after the injury or develop within several hours or days. Evidence of severe traumatic brain injury is prolonged unconsciousness after the event. The longer the unconsciousness lasts, the more serious the brain injury usually is.

Diagnosis of traumatic brain injury

In order to determine the severity of the brain damage, various examinations are carried out. They include a neurological examination with specific focus on the function of the nerves and the eyes. In the case of unconscious patients in particular, radiological examinations such as computed tomography and MRI of the brain are carried out to determine the extent of the head injury.

Treatment for severe trauma

In the case of severe brain injuries with haemorrhages, an emergency operation may be necessary to resolve the bleeding and remove the blood from the skull. Patients with severe traumatic brain injury are often kept in an artificial coma to protect the brain. Sometimes a piece of skull bone is removed and the brain is kept open for some time to counter any life-threatening increase in pressure in the brain. Additional anti-inflammatory medication is also administered to reduce the cerebral swelling.

Consequences

Depending on the severity of the injury, an intensive rehabilitation programme is required after a traumatic brain injury. Under certain circumstances, basic functions such as walking or speaking must be relearned. Often, after a severe traumatic brain injury, late effects in the form of neurological deficits remain in the patient.

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