The Effect of TBI (Traumatic Brain Inujuries) on Returning Veterans
Traumatic brain injury, often called TBI, is a serious health problem that occurs when an individual suffers a blow to the head. Severe cases can cause noticeable changes in thinking, behavior, emotion and language. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injury each year. TBI is a common problem in our military returning from combat.
What is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury occurs when the person suffers a head injury that causes the brain to bounce against the interior of the skull. The brain is composed of soft tissue, but the skull is hard bone. When the brain collides against the inside of the skull, it is affected not only by the initial injury but also by the bouncing action that occurs within the confined case of the skull. Injuries can also occur when the skull is pierced and the brain is injured.
What are the Symptoms of TBI?
Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury include loss of consciousness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, fatigue, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, sudden changes in mood, unusual anxiety, depression or changes in sleeping habits.
Those who have suffered more severe traumatic brain injury may be unconscious for minutes or hours, seem very confused, slur their speech, suffer convulsions or vomit repeatedly. Additionally, it may be hard to awaken from sleep, or they may have clear fluid coming from nose or ears or may have dilation of the pupils of the eyes.
Why is TBI Common in Returning Vets?
Traumatic brain injury can be caused by explosive blasts. These explosive blasts can cause the bouncing of the brain in the interior of the skull that is associated with TBI. Any severe blow to the head that can occur in combat can cause TBI.
Any penetrating wound to the brain can also cause traumatic brain injuries. These injuries can cause cognitive difficulties, aggression, speech problems and other disabilities.
Standard Treatment for TBI
Mild traumatic brain injuries are treated with rest and pain relievers. If the TBI is determined to be moderate or severe, more aggressive treatment is required to ensure that oxygen and blood to the brain is maintained. Diuretics are given to reduce fluid in brain tissues and reduce pressure.
Anti-spasmodic medications may be given to prevent seizures. These may continue to be prescribed even after the patient leaves the hospital. Coma-inducing drugs may be given to allow the brain to rest while it heals. Surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure, repair skull fractures or remove blood clots.
Rehabilitation is given to relearn language and motor skills. A variety of therapy modalities are used to restore the individual to normal life.
Many times, concussions are so mild that the soldier does not realize he or she has sustained a serious injury until symptoms develop later. The development of a field test that can determine changes in the brain’s biomarkers and improve early treatment of these injuries is being developed. A smartphone-type device that monitors brain activity is also under development.
Blast meters that measure the force of nearby explosions will help soldier recognize when injuries are likely. Neuro-protective medications, given before combat, may be able to protect the brain against blast injuries. These advances would significantly help to reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries in returning vets.
An attorney specializing in traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can help compensate individuals that have suffered from TBI. It is wise to contact an attorney to see what your rights are.