Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury

The brain is one of the most important organs in the body—which is why its protected by a dense layer of bone, the skull. The skull is one of the most rigid structures found in nature. The strength of this shield, however, means that any injury to the brain is a serious matter. Indeed, traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability, and one of the most common causes of death in children and young adults. Trauma to the brain can cause physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral effects, and while full recovery is possible in some cases, it can cause permanent damage or death in others.

A number of things can cause traumatic brain injury, though different causes are common in different environments. For example, one study found that children in urban areas who suffered brain trauma typically had gotten injured playing sports. The Canadian researchers found that 40 percent of these injuries had resulted from hockey. Rural children with head injuries, by contrast, were most often injured as a result of incidents involving motorized vehicles such as dirt bikes.

When a child is brought to the hospital with head trauma, the usual course of action is to give them a CT scan to look for bleeding in the brain that could cause dangerously high intracranial pressure or other life-threatening conditions. However, a study last year found that in many cases of minor head trauma—the lowest of the three levels, with the patient either not losing consciousness or coming to within half an hour and able to hold a normal conversation with no signs of being disoriented—simple vigilance is often sufficient. Children who over a long period show no symptoms of trauma beyond loss of consciousness, the study found, show nearly no risk of what is called a clinically important brain injury.

In the weeks and months a mild traumatic brain injury, even without hemorrhaging, patients often exhibit a constellation of symptoms called post-concussion syndrome. However, more and more doctors are coming to feel that the term is erroneous. Given the circumstances in which concussions occur, and which patients exhibit signs of post-concussion syndrome and which do not, these doctors feel that it is actually a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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