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About Brain Injuries

This page will focus on mild traumatic brain injuries primarily, and leave most of the information about severe brain injury to others. There are few more complicated and controversial areas in medicine than mild traumatic brain injury.

Introduction

In an article in the Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, a study demonstrated that of people injured in an automobile collision, twenty percent would have enough difficulty with mild traumatic brain injury to miss work for that reason. Most of those people recovered within twelve weeks. A small number do not recover well enough to continue their lives. If you are one of these people, there is some help available.

How Do I Know If I Have A Brain Injury?

Unfortunately, there is no simple online questionnaire that can answer that question. (You can easily find websites that disagree with this site about that sentence.) There are some questions that make a yes more likely, but a real evaluation is still needed. Here are some relevant questions:

  1. Did you black out at the time of your injury? (You do not have to be unconscious to have a brain injury - but it is more likely if you blacked out)
  2. Are you having problems with your memory that you didn't have before you were injured?
  3. Do you get upset easily, and is this different than before your injury? Does the pain from your injury explain why you are upset?
  4. Are you having difficulty with relationships you did not have before your injury? Is it because of pain?
  5. Is there a change in the type of food you choose to eat?

OK, now you have looked at the questions. If you are different, and especially if your family and friends say you are different now from who you were before the injury, what should you do?

The only answer is to be evaluated by a qualified health care professional who is open to the possibility that you have a mild brain injury.

How Am I Tested for a Brain Injury?

The best pictures we can take of the brain are done with the MRI. Usually, the MRI is normal in people with mild traumatic brain injury. Whether you need an MRI of the brain must be judged by your treating practitioner.

The best test we have to figure out if you have a brain injury is neuropsychological testing, a series of "paper and pencil" tests to see how the brain is working. This lengthy testing is done under the supervision of a neuropsychologist.

Another interesting, but more controversial, test is Quantitative EEG, where the electrical activity of the brain is measured.

How does a brain injury happen?

Your head can hit something

You can injure your brain without your head striking a solid object, but when the head does strike a solid object with enough force, the brain will be injured.

You can be in a car collision

The same uneven acceleration forces that cause the motor vehicle collision injuries to the neck, can injure the brain without impact. Automobile collisions apply a powerful and unnatural force to the body. This creates a swirling movement that disrupts the delicate brain structures, even without impact. One part of the brain moves faster than another, causing stretching of the nerve fibers. The brain is also a soft substance which strikes and scrapes against the hard skull and the tough meninges.

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Last modified: Fri, 17 Jun 2005

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