Information on treating and rehabilitation following a TBI.
Traumatic brain injuries are quite complex and can lead to serious disabilities. There is no one symptom that is the same for every person, not even those who may have developed a TBI for similar reasons. The quality of treatment for these types of injuries has been greatly improved, but effective early treatment is still the best hope for success.
The effects of a traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a somewhat-common injury, but may be missed in its early stages while the medical team focuses on life-saving measures. At one time, the mortality rate for individuals with TBI was very high, but medical advances (such as respirators) and the ability to decrease intracranial pressure have dramatically improved those odds. In spite of these advancements, there are still substantial negative effects from a TBI.
TBIs can be broken down into two categories:
- Mild TBI (mTBI) is categorized by a loss of consciousness and/or confusion that lasts for less than half an hour. Frequently, the MRI and CAT scans appear normal in spite of the fact the individual suffers from various cognitive problems.
- Severe brain injury is recognizable by a loss of consciousness that lasts more than 30 minutes and a loss of memory that continues for longer than 24 hours after the injury. There may also be limited limb function, problems with speech, reduction in the ability to think, and/or emotional distress.
- Anoxic brain injury (AnBI) is categorized as brain damage resulting from a lack of oxygen (blood flow) to the brain. Brain cells begin to die after approximately four minutes without oxygen. This type of injury is also referred to as cerebral hypoxia or a hypoxic brain injury.
Individuals who suffer from severe brain injuries may remain in unresponsive states for quite some time. Many people require long-term rehabilitation in order to maximize their ability to function and work toward functional independence.
Causes of traumatic brain injuries.
There are several different causes of traumatic brain injuries, including car accidents, falls, concussions, and other types of head injuries. Those at the highest risk for TBI are the elderly and young adults. There is no “cure” for TBI, but the best approach is to seek appropriate treatment through a reputable rehab facility or doctor.
The benefits of rehabilitation.
When a patient with a TBI begins the rehabilitation process, the goal is to:
- Stabilize issues that are related to the brain and other injuries
- Prevent any secondary complications
- Restore any functional abilities that were lost
- Provide the patient with devices or strategies that can help the patient regain functional independence
- Analyze the patient’s situation with the family to assess any changes that might be necessary once the patient returns home
The patient will receive therapy every day, and may require the assistance of staff for even simple tasks such as brushing teeth, eating, and getting up. Staff may also need to monitor the patient for safety reasons. The rehabilitation will consist of both a physical therapist and an occupational therapist.
The amount of improvement the patient makes depends on the severity of the injuries. Some patients make a nearly full recovery while others require modifications to their homes in order to resume some measure of a normal life.
UT Dallas now working on additional treatment options.
Along with a team of researchers, Dr. Robert Rennaker (the head of Bioengineering at UT Dallas) has developed two new tools to assist victims of brain injuries called Targeted Plasticity Therapy. This type of therapy focuses on stimulating a damaged brain’s functions using eye-scanning goggles to detect efficiency, as well as an implantable microchip that helps with regaining memory. While this type of therapy may not be available just yet, Rennaker said he’s hoping for full FDA approval on the two devices in 2017.