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Neuroscience Center Traumatic Brain Injury Advocacy Group

Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of TBI?
Answer: Traumatic brain injury has many possible symptoms. These include seizures, memory or behavioral problems, depression, irritability, headache, nausea, or severe head pain.

Is there any treatment?
Answer: Immediate treatment for TBI involves surgery to control bleeding in and around the brain, monitoring and controlling intracranial pressure, insuring adequate blood flow to the brain, and treating the body for other injuries and infection.

What is the prognosis?
Answer: The outcome of TBI depends on the cause of the injury and on the location, severity, and extent of neurological damage: outcomes range from good recovery to death.

Can a brain injury occur even if a person doesn't lose consciousness?
Answer: Yes, while serious brain injuries do occur associated with loss of consciousness, it is not necessary that loss of consciousness occur for a serious brain injury to happen. For this reason, any time a brain injury is suspected, expert medical treatment should be sought at once.

What causes a brain injury?
Answer: The type of force that can cause traumatic brain injury is one that causes the brain to move inside the skull or one that damages the skull to the extent that it then damages the brain. Some of the circumstances under which this type of injury can occur include motor vehicle accidents, a direct blow to the head with a heavy instrument, sports injuries, slip and fall accidents, and physical violence.

Some of the causes of acquired brain injury include starvation of oxygen to the brain and lack of blood flow to the brain. Some of the circumstances under which one might suffer an acquired brain injury include:

  • Near drowning, choking, or strangulation
  • Electric shock
  • Obstruction of airways
  • Vascular problems
  • Strokes or heart attacks
  • Infectious disease
  • Toxic exposure
  • Through the abuse of illegal drugs

What is an Anoxic Brain Injury?
Answer: ANOXIC BRAIN INJURY refers to damage caused to the brain when its oxygen supply is cut off. In general, this occurs when there is an absence of oxygen intake (no breathing) or an impairment in oxygen transport by the blood stream. Anoxic brain injury can occur along with cardiac arrest, as a complication of surgery, or as a result of near-drowning.

When the flow of oxygen to the brain is interrupted even for just a few minutes, serious, irreversible damage can occur. While traumatic brain injury can result in bruising and swelling of the brain , anoxic brain injury causes brain cells to die. The sequela of anoxic brain injury (the physical and cognitive impairments) resemble those of other types of brain trauma. Rehabilitation for anoxic brain injury involves many of the same therapies as traumatic brain injury... physical therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, etc. The prognosis for someone with anoxic brain injury depends upon pre-morbid factors (e.g., pre-injury heart condition), the injury (e.g., length of time of anoxia), and treatment (e.g., intensity and quality of therapy).

My friend was diagnosed with a "closed head injury" after a car accident. She doesn't remember all of the accident, but reports feeling dazed for a period of time afterwards. She says she didn't completely lose consciousness, though. The hospital did a CT scan and sent her home. Now my friend is experiencing headaches and mood swings. Is it possible that the closed head injury caused these problems?
Answer: It is possible to have brain damage even if a CT scan doesn't show any problems. It is possible to have brain damage even if there was no loss of consciousness. Headaches and mood swings are both symptoms which can come from a closed head injury. It's possible to have such symptoms even when at first doctors don't find anything obviously wrong. Any time someone has new symptoms following an accident, it's a good idea to go back to the doctor to evaluate the cause and recommend treatment.

My doctor strictly advised me not to consume alcohol (or any other non-prescription drugs) since my brain injury. He said the negative effects of alcohol and drugs would be magnified several times in my case, since my brain sustained permanent damage. What exactly does this mean? Would a few beers cause further brain damage?
Answer: Permanent brain injury typically results in fewer resources to deal with the additional impairing effects of alcohol. Alcohol can impair judgment which may already be clouded by the brain impairment (in other words, the poor judgment which may be a result of brain injury may be magnified by the dulling effects of alcohol). If alcohol impairs judgment, cognitive abilities and sensory-motor functions, which already may be negatively affected by the brain injury, it can increase the probability of additional traumatic brain injury. In such a case, the brain is more vulnerable to additional impairment.

Alcohol has a direct impairing effect on brain tissue in the following ways:

  • It decreases the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.
  • It destroys important vitamin B complexes.
  • It disrupts electrolyte balances.
  • It has a direct toxic effect on brain tissue (as well as other physiological impacts).

Use of alcohol, typically over long periods of time, can actually destroy brain cells (neurons). It also can directly affect the potency and effectiveness of medications and lower seizure thresholds. For all of these reasons, it is not advisable for anyone with a brain injury to drink alcohol or use other non-prescribed drugs.