Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, refers to an incident that results in brain damage. This damage to the brain can be as mild as a concussion or as severe as a gunshot wound to the head. Roughly 75 percent of TBIs reported in the United States are considered mild.

Penetrating or closed traumatic brain injury

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), traumatic brain injuries are categorized as either being penetrating or closed. Penetrating injuries happen when a foreign object enters the brain. Closed injuries occur when a person experiences a blow to the head. TBIs can also cause two different types of brain damage. According to the ASHA, primary brain damage occurs upon impact. This can include skull fractures, bleeding and bruising. Secondary brain damage happens after the initial trauma. This may include brain swelling, anemia, epilepsy or other health issues.


Seeking treatment soon after the traumatic event is important in preventing further brain damage, though little can be done to reverse damage that has already been sustained. After being evaluated in an emergency care setting, people with moderate to severe TBIs will likely be sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). At that point, stabilizing the patient is the top priority. If the injury is severe, things like a breathing tube or a catheter may necessary. After ICU, patients will begin acute rehabilitation. According to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), this involves regaining daily living skills in an inpatient setting. Subacute rehabilitation is the next stage and can be delivered in a nursing home or nursing facility. Day treatment programs, outpatient therapy and home health services can also help. The focus of rehabilitation following a TBI is to regain the gross and fine motor skills, cognitive impairments, and speech and language skills lost because of the injury. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1.7 million TBIs occur each year.

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