Severe Brain Injury Symptoms

Picture a man laying unconscious at the scene of a horrific auto accident.  When then ambulance arrives the EMTs check for vitals and find a pulse and a slowed rate of breathing.  There is no apparent sign of external injuries so the victim is taken away to the hospital where he is treated and continues to be unconscious until 12 hours later.  When he awakes he is unaware of his surroundings, can not speak well and is extremely sensitive to the sounds around him.  Chances are he has suffered a severe brain injury. 

While open head injuries are very obvious, a closed head injury can be just as serious if not recognized and treated.  Severe brain injuries result in symptoms that may be temporary or permanent with the victim often losing consciousness for more than six hours...sometimes comatose for days, weeks, or even months. Persistent Vegetative State

What are the different levels of severe brain injury?

  • Coma
  • Vegetative state
  • Persistent vegetative state
  • Minimally responsive state
  • Akinetic mutism
  • Locked-in syndrome 

Do all severe brain injury victims display the same symptoms?

That answer depends on a variety of factors such as:

  • The severity of initial brain injury
  • The functions and abilities impaired
  • The rate or completeness of physiological brain injury recovery
  • The available resources for severe brain injury recovery
  • All areas of function that aren’t affected by the severe brain injury

The results after an injury can vary.  At first, our car accident victim may be unresponsive but may be aroused by a strong stimulus like a sharp object.  If the injury is worse, he may be comatose and unable to respond to any type of stimulus.  Or he may wind up in a vegetative state, completely unconscious and unaware of surroundings, while still having brief periods of alertness. If he remains in that condition longer than a month, he would then be categorized as being in a persistent vegetative state.

If no longer unconscious, the early severe brain injury symptoms you need to look for are blurred vision, dizziness, slow pulse and breathing, confusion, headache, drowsiness, and vomiting.  Symptoms that may be delayed may appear as amnesia, difficulty thinking, slurred speech, numbness or paralysis, and emotional changes.


Brain Injury Symptoms ChecklistWhat bodily functions are affected?

Among the functions affected by severe brain injury symptoms are:

  • Cognitive disorders: concentration, memory, confusion, language, impulse
  • Speech: slurred, speaking slowly or rapidly, reading and writing problems
  • Sensory: temperature, touch, movement
  • Vision: loss, weakness, blurred, light sensitivity, involuntary movement
  • Hearing: loss, ringing, sound sensitivity
  • Smell and taste: loss or reduction of senses, decreased appetite
  • Physical: pain, sleep disturbance, temperature, paralysis, seizures
  • Social/emotional: depression, anger, aggression, loss of motivation, dependency