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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A Summary

by: George Pararas-Carayannis, Ph.D.*

(Excerpts from summary prepared under contract for the ReGenesis Medical Center/ Dec 2000)

* Disclaimer - I am not a medical doctor. All material provided at this website is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Patients and consumers should review the information carefully with their professional health care provider. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. I will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising therefrom.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs frequently. It is estimated that every 15 seconds someone sustains a brain injury and that every five minutes, one of those people will die and another will become permanently disabled. Each year in this country, a total of more than two million people sustain some form of traumatic brain injury, with 1,000,000 being severe enough to be treated in hospital emergency rooms.

Approximately 75,000 to 100,000 die each year as a result of a TBI, most deaths occurring at the time of injury or within the first two hours of hospitalization. Of those who survive their initial injury, approximately 70,000 to 90,000 become permanently disabled and have to endure lifelong debilitating loss of function. This is higher than the combined incidence of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. An additional 2,000 of those sustaining a head injury will exist in a persistent vegetative state.

According to the Brain Injury Association, TBI is a leading cause of death and disability, particularly among children and young adults. Males are more likely to suffer serious brain injuries than are females. The highest rate of injury occurs among young men between the ages of 14 and 24. Each year, more than 1,000,000 children sustain brain injuries, ranging from mild to severe trauma. Falls are the most common cause of playground injuries, and 75% of children's deaths by falling from playground equipment, result from brain injuries.

Causes of TBI

Motor vehicle crashes account for 50% of all fatal and non-fatal TBIs. This includes all crashes involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and
pedestrians. The majority of fatal brain injuries are due to motor vehicle crashes (43%) and firearms (34%) followed by falls (9%). Between 32 and 73% of all brain injuries resulting in hospitalization, are accompanied by a high blood alcohol level. Fatality crashes involving men are much more likely to be alcohol related than those involving women (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 1994).

Among the elderly, falls are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of TBI. Child abuse accounts for 64% of traumatic brain injuries in infants. Also, each year in the United States, 50,000 children sustain bicycle related brain injuries. Over 400 of these children die as a result of their injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The term "brain injury" refers to any injury of the brain and can be caused by fracture or penetration of the skull (such as in the case of a vehicle accident, fall or gunshot wound), a disease process (neurotoxins, infections, tumors, metabolic abnormalities, etc.)

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury can have serious and devastating, lifelong effects on the physical and mental functioning of the survivor.

Physical symptoms may include Impairment of speech, vision and hearing
loss, headaches, muscle spasticity, partial or complete paralysis and seizure disorders.

Cognitive symptoms may include loss of consciousness, short and long-term memory losses, limited concentration, impaired perception and communication, difficulties with reading, writing, planning, and judgment.

Beyond the obvious physical effects of brain injury, survivors frequently cope with psychological, social, behavioral and emotional impairments. These may include fatigue, altered personality, mood swings, denial, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, lack of motivation, loss of self esteem, and problems with interpersonal skills. In some cases, the injury survivor may not even have awareness of any resulting impairments.

Closed Head Injury

The term "closed head injury" is used when the brain has been damaged without penetration of the skull by another object. Such injury often occurs without leaving obvious external signs. A closed head injury such as in the case of Shaken Baby Syndrome can result from rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head, in which the brain is damaged by severe and violent shaking or twisting.

Depending on the location and severity of the injury, the body can be affected in a myriad of ways. When the injury results from head trauma, damage to the brain may occur at the time of impact or may develop later due to swelling (cerebral edema) and bleeding into the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage) or bleeding around the brain (epidural or subdural hemorrhage). When the head is hit with sufficient force, the brain turns and twists on its axis (the brain stem), interrupting normal nerve pathways and causing a loss of consciousness. If this unconsciousness persists over a long period of time, the injured person is considered to be in a coma, a condition caused by the disruption of the nerve fibers going from the brain stem to the cortex.

If the injury is severe, as in the case of an acceleration deceleration injury in which the moving head impacts against a hard, fixed surface, multiple areas of the brain are damaged. For example, a compression fracture occurs in the area where the head impacted the fixed surface. Upon impact, the brain rebounds forward and backward against the skull (this is called coup-contracoup), which tears the subdural veins, causes damage to the temporal lobes as they move across the rough bony structures within the skull, and results in bleeding, swelling of the brain stem, and shearing of the blood vessels and nerve fibers.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI)

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), also known as concussion, is a frequent form of head injury. Almost every concussion causes some damage to the brain, and the damage from successive concussions is cumulative. The additional risks from a series of concussions include premature senility, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

Differences between closed and penetrating TBIs

The difference between closed and penetrating injuries can be profound. In a bullet wound to the head, for example, a large area of the brain may be destroyed but the resulting neurologic deficit may be minor if that area was not a critical one. In contrast, closed head injuries result in more widespread damage and can result in more extensive neurologic deficits. These deficits can include partial to complete paralysis, cognitive, behavioral, and memory dysfunction, persistent vegetative state, and death. These last two are the most feared outcomes in cases of brain injury, however advances in trauma care have led to decreased rates for both in recent years.

Alternative treatment therapies

Free radicals are formed at some point in almost every mechanism of secondary brain injury. These highly reactive molecules attack the fatty acids in the myelin and cell-membrane. If unchecked, lipid peroxidation spreads over the surface of the cell membrane and eventually leads to cell death. Antioxidants are therefore important to recovery as well as prevention in protecting the brain after an injury. Vitamins are also helpful in repairing injured brain cells.

Several protocols of treatment can be given to patients that have sustained a head injury, but particularly intravenous Glutathione, EDTA chelation, and Meyer's cocktail. Glutathione is an important nutrient and energy source for the brain and acts as a major antioxidant within each cell in patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments are also helpful in forcing more oxygen into the body under pressure and to dissolve in all the body's fluids. These fluids carry the extra oxygen to the damaged cells in the brain and help the healing process.

Miscellaneous Summaries on Chronic Illnesses

heart disease | | stroke | diabetes | | high blood pressure | | high cholesterol | | Alzheimer's | | Parkinson's | | arthritis | | chronic fatigue | | poor circulation | | brain injury | | multiple sclerosis | | cerebral palsy | | life extension | | memory loss |

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