Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.7 million people in the United States suffer a traumatic brain injury every year. Approximately 53,000 will die from their injuries. 80.7% require emergency room visits.  In fact, 1.1% of the US civilian population (or 3.17 million people) live with a long-term disability from TBI.

Fully one-third of all injury-related deaths are due in part to TBI.

So what exactly constitutes a traumatic brain injury? Traumatic Brain Injuries happen when a blunt force literally tears apart some of the brain tissues.

Basically, any event causing moderately to severe cellular damage to brain tissues can be considered a TBI.  Some definitions fine tune the distinction to outside events – meaning acquired brain injuries such as disease, strokes, heart attacks and other incidents such as near drowning are not technically a TBI. (When counted, the TBI rate would rise to 2.5 million cases per year.)

The Center for Disease Control defines TBI as:

“…caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.”

The CDC further breaks down Traumatic Brain Injuries into two sub-categories:

  • Closed – a brain injury caused by movement of the brain within the skull.  Causes may include falls, motor vehicle crashes, and being struck by or with an object.
  • Penetrating – an injury to the brain caused by a foreign object entering the skull.  Causes may include firearm injuries or being struck with a sharp object.

In the United States, most TBI incidents are because of falls, followed closely by car accidents.  Other main causes are sporting accidents, physical violence and abuse (including Shaken Baby Syndrome) gunshot wounds and combat injuries (such as explosions, blasts, and bullet injuries).

Those most at risk are senior citizens 65 years of age and older, this group having the highest TBI related hospitalizations and death.

The dangerous thing about TBI’s is that a person may not experience symptoms for days or even weeks after the injury. A mild TBI is considered a concussion – which can lead to headaches, neck pains, dizziness, tinnitus, and lethargy.

In more severe cases of Traumatic Brain Injury the person may experience vomiting, convulsions, seizures, slurred speech, numbness in arms or legs, eye dilation, amnesia, inability to wake up from sleep or even enter into a coma.

TBI’s aren’t only responsible for the physical problems just mentioned.  Emotions, the ability to think clearly, smells, touch and even language can be altered by blows to the brain.  With military personnel, post-traumatic stress disorder is another possible serious consequence of Traumatic Brain Injuries.


TBI’s are evaluated today using several methods.  The three most popular are the BTF Guidelines, the Glasgow Coma Scale, and the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale.

  • Developed over 10 years ago in collaboration with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the BTF’s Traumatic Brain Injury Guidelines are essentially a copyrighted list of symptoms and procedures hospital health care professionals should evaluate and follow when diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries.
  • The Glasgow Coma Scale is based upon a 15-point scale evalutrexasating and categorizing the severity of a brain injury, including motor response, verbal response, and eye movement.  The LOWER the score, the MORE SEVERE the injury.  A score of three or less usually indicates an eventual death sentence.
  • The Ranchos Los Amigos Scale is similar to the Glasgow Coma Scale in that it lists seven types of responses to check for when evaluating a patient for TBI.


When admitted to the hospital for a possible TBI, hourly clinical observation until 4 hours after the injury is required.  Computerized tomography (CT) scans are also highly advised to evaluate the extent (if any) of bone and soft tissue brain damage, including cranial hemorrhaging (bleeding inside the brain).

Resuscitation, stabilization, and supportive care can all come into play at this point.  In cases of severe trauma, emergency ventilation and surgery may be called for, in order to keep oxygen levels stable, reduce brain swelling, extract any foreign objects in and around the brain area or to close up wounds.  In some cases, the skull may actually be surgically opened to help dissipate the pressure from acute brain swelling.

After a patient has been stabilized, continued monitoring is needed.  Even in mild cases of TBI’s, there can be hidden trauma affecting a patient’s health and well-being, both physical and emotional.


Full recovery from a moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury can take months or even years.  According to Traumatic Brain, the indicators for medical recovery include:

  • Duration of Coma — The shorter the better.
  • Post-traumatic amnesia — Again, the shorter the better.
  • Age — Patients over 60 or under age 2 have the worst prognosis, even if the head injury they suffer is the same as in other age groups.

In any event, because the brain is so infinitely complex, forecasting recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury is still at best a guessing game.

In severe cases, long-term medical and rehabilitation may be necessary, with some patients needing to be assisted living arrangements the rest of their lives.

Terry Bryant Law Firm in Houston has been helping Texas residents for 30 years in accident related issues, evaluating their legal situation, and ensuring they get all the aid and help to which they are entitled.