A brain injury can result in damage to the brain cells or cause a permanent loss of brain function. This is because the brain is the most sensitive body organ. Mild and severe brain injuries are also known as open head and closed head injuries, concussion or stroke. Similar medical terms include frontal lobe damage, diffuse axonal brain injury and anoxic injury of the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 2% of an estimated 5.3 million children and adults in the US are currently survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Every year, more than $60 billion is spent on medical costs, and productivity and wage loss from head injuries.
When someone suffers a brain injury, you imagine him to be helpless and unable to care for himself. But if he survives, his life and his family’s will surely change dramatically. The chance of surviving a severe head injury is narrow, and those who do sometimes are in vegetative state of unresponsiveness. And those caring for a survivor have to face the uncertainty of the patient recovering from it. They have endless questions in their minds. Briefly, we will tackle these questions and give you better understanding of traumatic brain injury.
How did it happen and could it have been prevented?
In the United States, many emergency cases and deaths are related to head injury. From the 2013 data of 2.8 million patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), 50,000 died from it. Head injuries in the Emergency Department and hospital admissions mostly result from falls, accidents, vehicular crashes and other causes.
Individuals who are 75 years and older have the highest risk of dying from TBI. Concussions are treated in US hospitals for recreation and sports-related incidents among children age 19 years and younger. The number reported was an estimated 330,000 kids in 2012.
Can brain injuries be prevented?
Some accidents are unavoidable. But making your house safe to move around can prevent your senior parents or family members from falling or getting hit by hard objects. All passengers, especially children, must be buckled up in car. Teenagers must always wear protective head gear when cycling or engaging contact sports.
Is there a chance to recover from a brain injury and live normally again?
This is the most dreaded question of family members. Who can tell? Not even the doctors can assure that life will be normal again after victim survives an injury.
Some people can recover quickly from any bump or minor head accidents. However, there are some who may take awhile like days and weeks to recover, and for severe injury it could take months or even years.
As a general observation, older people, kids and teens seem to recover longer than most adults.Some cases of head injury can manifest later. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of brain injury as it can lead to other problems.
Will the patient be able to speak after?
Traumatic brain injury can affect a person’s ability to speak. He can experience one or more forms of communication problems. This depends at large on the affected area of the brain. The effects of TBI do not only involve communication. Other changes are observed in the person’s physical, cognitive, behavioral and emotional functions. Being aware of these changes can help identify improvements to make him regain his speech.
Is full recovery or partial recovery be possible with any treatment?
It is quite difficult to predict the recovery of a person. Medical experts can never give you an exact answer. Whether full or partial recovery, it all depends on many other factors.
It is important to understand that after a severe injury, there are several stages to recovery. Because of the bleeding and swelling of the affected part of the brain, its functions are affected. The patient may be unresponsive and with no signs of consciousness or awareness. His condition may improve when swelling decreases. At the same time, the bleeding may stop and brain chemistry will improve as well as brain functions.
When the patient opens his eyes, it is an initial sign of recovery. This is followed by a cycle of sleep-wake and his ability to respond to prompts or follow commands. Soon, he will be able to speak.
Recovery varies in brain injury survivors. But the fastest one is possible in the first six months. Improvements can be observed during this period. The patient may show steady improvement which may continue from six months to a period of two years after the injury.
How much will be the cost of treatment and care?
Brain injury can either be mild or severe; thus, cost of treatment will also depend on this. Assistant Professor Chandi Edmonds from the Feinberg School of Medicine said that a lifetime treatment could cost an estimated $85,000 to $3,000,000.
Treatment and care could be inexpensive. There can be complications to the injury which make it more costly. Not many can afford the treatment and recovery program. Many who survived have lived with permanent disability. After the coma stage, the patient is in vegetative stage and caring for themselves will be difficult such as bathing or feeding.
Life after surviving a brain injury will be uncertain. Those who have the monetary resources will have better chances to recover. Some of them can still continue with their work and careers. However, the unfortunate ones with no money to spend for the cost of treatment will have to be cared for by their families, adding more emotional and physical problems to them.
The brain system is the mechanism that makes everything else in our body works. Understand and be aware of how the brain works and how fragile it is. No one is accident-proof but we must always practice precautionary measures in all of our daily activities.