What you need to know about TBI
One of the most devastating types of injuries we see are traumatic brain injuries (TBI) which impact more than 100 people per day across the United States.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and permanent disability among persons living in the United States. Each year in the U.S., approximately 1.7 million people sustain a TBI, and roughly 52,000 million of them die while 275,000 are hospitalized.
Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments in the country treat and release nearly 1.365 million (80%) TBI patients annually. About 75% of TBIs occurring each year are concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). A person can suffer from TBI from a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, sport injury, or other type of impact. Young children often get TBIs from injuries involved with “shaken baby syndrome.”
Louisiana Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics
According to the most recent statistics available from the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana, more than 5,000 residents of Louisiana lost their lives between 2000 and 2005 as a result of traumatic brain injuries. Louisiana statistics show that most of these injuries were the result of firearm-involved injuries and that in most cases, men were three times more likely to die as a result of their injuries. The highest incidents of death, however, were among elderly patients who typically suffered TBI as a result of a fall.
How Is the Brain Injured?
The brain is complex, and its somewhat-firm makeup is actually quite vulnerable. Direct and indirect impact to the brain can result in TBI, and single and multiple bouts of trauma may result in various degrees of seriousness.
The brain is capable of recovering from a concussion (sudden alteration of the brain’s alert state caused by trauma); however, some impact can lead to brain damage that’s permanent. Studies still do not indicate precisely how much force from TBI is required to produce permanent brain damage, but it seems that between 10 and 50 g’s of force is the range leading to unrecoverable injury.
To put these numbers in perspective, a boxer’s fist typically delivers force equal to being hit with a 13-pound bowling ball rolling at 20 miles per hour, roughly 52 g’s. Carelessly plunking down into an easy chair can impact your brain with up to 10 g’s. Both scenarios may lead to brain damage, as might many others including football impacts that generate up to 200 g’s.
Imagine the impact of a car accident and the damage it can do to the brain, whether through direct force of an object or by force via whiplash. Keeping the head as stabilized as possible while driving, and driving safely, is imperative to avoid TBI.
What Damage Actually Occurs to the Brain?
Traumatic damage to the brain happens in 2 ways. When a hard object strikes the head, or the other way around, the cerebral cortex may be bruised (contused). Additionally, when the head is whiplashed, the brain’s deep white matter may suffer a diffuse axonal injury. In cases of serious whiplash injury, axons stretch so much that they become severely damaged.
Direct Trauma from Falls and Accidents
When force from a fall or accident penetrates the skull, or fractures it, a person can suffer from severe brain injury. Damaging shock waves may flow through the brain matter causing injury, and the skull fractures may even push bone into the brain causing tissue damage. When the head strikes the floor in a slip and fall incident, or the steering wheel in an auto accident, TBI can occur.
Indirect Trauma from Whiplash
Indirect trauma to the brain via whiplash can occur through auto accidents or nursing home abuse. Severe abnormal movement, shaking, and stretching damages fragile nerve cells and can cause injury or death.
Understanding TBI Symptoms: Know What to Watch For
TBI can be classified as severe, mild and moderate. For each classification, there are different symptoms family members should be aware of, which include:
Symptoms of mild TBI include:
- Loss of consciousness for up to a few minutes.
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Blurred vision.
- Problems with memory, concentration and learning.
- Behavioral changes.
- Mood disturbances.
- Sensitivity to light or sound.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
Symptoms of moderate to severe TBI include:
- Loss of consciousness for up to several hours.
- Chronic nausea and/or vomiting.
- Persistent and/or worsening headache.
- Loss of coordination.
- Weakness or loss of feeling in fingers and toes.
- Slurred speech.
- Unusual behavior.
- Profound confusion.
- Trouble awakening from sleep.
- Clear fluid draining from the ears and/or nose.
- Dilation of pupils (one or both).
TBI Symptoms in Children
Some of the symptoms of TBI in children may be difficult to detect, as children cannot always tell you exactly how they are feeling. Signs of TBI in children that adults can look for include:
- Loss of interest in favorite activities or toys.
- Depressed mood.
- Sleep changes.
- Inability to pay attention.
- Persistent or inconsolable crying.
- Changes in eating habits.
These symptoms should never be ignored; without proper treatment, the victim could suffer long-term problems including mood changes, personality changes and an inability to care for themselves. Anytime someone has been involved in any type of incident that results in head trauma, you need to be vigilant monitoring them for a minimum of 24 hours after the incident. Even a minor head wound can have devastating consequences.
Most people with a mild TBI, which may also be referred to as a “concussion,” will recover over time. To speed the individual’s recovery, the Mayo Clinic recommends plenty of rest and over-the-counter pain relievers for headache. Individuals diagnosed with mild TBI should also be monitored carefully to ensure that their condition does not worsen.
Individuals with symptoms of a moderate to severe TBI require immediate medical attention. The initial brain damage caused by the trauma cannot usually be reversed. To prevent further injury, the victim should be stabilized as soon as possible. The primary focus of medical care should be to control the blood pressure and ensure that the patient’s circulation and oxygenation are not compromised. Medical professionals should also use imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis of TBI in the patient at this time.
Moderate or severe TBIs are monitored and treated with pain relievers, much like mild TBIs. To aid the individual in recovery, physical therapy, speech therapy, psychiatric care and occupational therapy may also be required.
The National Institutes of Health reports that approximately 50 percent of individuals with severe head injuries need surgery. Even with the best treatment, serious injuries can lead to chronic disability. Many victims never completely recover from their injuries and continue to experience problems with behavior, sensory processing and cognition throughout their lives. In the most severe cases, victims may fall into a stupor, coma or vegetative state indefinitely.
Resources for Victims
If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of TBI in Louisiana, the following resources may help:
- Brain Injury Association of Louisiana
- State of Louisiana Traumatic Head and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund
- Louisiana Support Groups
Personal Injury Lawsuits: Possible Compensation
What surprises many people is that if you are involved in any type of incident in Louisiana that involves someone’s negligence, you have only one year from the date of the accident to file a civil lawsuit for damages. This makes it crucial for you to contact an attorney who understands traumatic brain injuries and will fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Under personal injury statutes, you could be entitled to the following types of compensation for economic losses:
- Earnings losses – it is common to be able to collect your lost wages while you are recovering. However, oftentimes, TBI victims never recover from their injuries sufficiently enough to return to their employment. In many cases, potential earnings until the time of retirement will be awarded in civil lawsuits.
- Medical costs – any medical treatment a victim requires including hospitalization, surgical procedures, visits with specialists or rehabilitation therapy that is uncovered by medical insurance should be reimbursed through the process of a civil lawsuit. This is important because the costs can continue to mount with nursing care if the victim is unable to care for themselves.
Other losses which are considered “non-economic” may also be awarded depending on how hard your personal injury attorney works on your behalf. Some of the potential damages they can seek include:
- Mental anguish/emotional pain and suffering
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium/reputation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Anyone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury has a long road to recovery- physically, emotionally, and financially. Victims or family members should contact J. Antonio Tramontana to schedule a free consultation. Knowing all of your options can protect your family from being strapped with the financial costs associated with TBI. Attorney Tramontana can be reached by phone at 318-340-1515 or email.
Image via Flickr by Nathanael Burton