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Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries: Diagnosis, Treatment and Long-Term Effects

Protecting the brain from injury is vital. Any blow to the head or penetration of the skull can result in a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, which can have lasting effects for the individual. There are different types of TBI, including concussions, that can affect everything from motor functions to mental health for those with these injuries. Here is what you need to know about TBIs and concussions, including diagnosis, treatment and long-term effects.


What Causes a TBI?

Traumatic brain injuries occur when the brain is damaged from a physical event. This can occur when something hits the head, such as a falling or flying object. It can happen when the head hits any surface, such as a car accident, fall or while playing contact sports. Jolts to the head, such as severe whiplash, can cause a TBI. Penetration of the skull and brain from a bullet or other object will cause a TBI. Anytime the function of the brain is affected by impact or intrusion, it is considered a traumatic brain injury.


TBIs are diagnosed based on the severity of the damage to brain function. The mildest form of TBI is a concussion. Even though it is the mildest form, it can still cause chemical changes in the brain that can impact cognitive function. Moderate to severe TBIs can greatly affect cognitive function and can be deadly.


Diagnosis of TBIs and Concussions

Anyone who experiences trauma to the head should be evaluated for a concussion or TBI. Unfortunately, many concussions and brain injuries are overlooked or may go undiagnosed due to a delay in symptoms. It is possible to have a brain injury from a blow or impact to the head and not have any major symptoms for hours or days after the event.


Diagnosis of concussions and more serious TBIs require a neurological examination and other testing. The neurological exam includes evaluating vision, reflexes, hearing, balance, sensation and coordination to note any dysfunction. A cognitive evaluation may also be performed to check memory and concentration. If there are severe symptoms such as seizures, vomiting or severe headaches, imaging of the brain may be performed.


TBI Treatment and Prognosis

The treatment for brain injuries depends on the severity. Concussions are usually treated with rest for a few days following the injury followed by gradual increase of cognitive and physical activities. Individuals should be monitored for worsening symptoms as what appears to be a concussion at first may have lasting brain damage or a moderate TBI.


Treatment for moderate and severe TBIs varies depending on the individual and their symptoms. Initially, the patient may need emergency room or hospital care until stabilized. Neurological treatment may include medications and surgery, with rehabilitation for long-term symptoms.


The prognosis and long-term effects of all types of TBIs, even concussion, varies from patient to patient. Concussions, especially individuals with a history of multiple concussions, can have long-term cognitive effects, including impacting behavior, memory, sleep and other mental aspects. Moderate to severe TBIs can result in mental and physical disabilities, requiring long-term medical treatment from an experienced neurologist and therapy team.


TBI Diagnosis and Treatment in Arizona

Foothills Neurology is your source for experienced neurologists that can provide diagnosis and treatment for all levels of traumatic brain injuries. Our state-of-the-art centers can perform in-house advanced imaging along with neurological and cognitive testing by our experienced neurologists. We have a compassionate team that will work with you and your medical team to devise the best treatment plan to improve your cognitive health and overall well-being. Call to schedule a brain injury exam at one of our neurology centers in Phoenix, AZ.


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