There are mild traumatic brain injuries and severe ones; there are short and long term consequences; there are temporary and permanent effects. In any case, the consequences of a brain injury can weigh heavily on victims and their families, causing significant hardship for everyone affected.
Determining Risk and Potential Effects
Most brain injury victims experience a period of unconsciousness. The length and level of this state of unconsciousness is an important indicator of how serious the effects of the brain injury will be. Most often, doctors and medical professionals measure consciousness and brain injury severity based on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). This scale assigns numbers to eye, verbal and motor responsiveness, then adds those numbers together for a total GCS number between 1 and 15. A GCS of 8 or lower puts brain injury victims at the greatest risk for serious long-term disability or death.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Those who do not enter an unconscious state, or who recover from unconsciousness within 30 minutes with a GCS of 13-15 are classified as having a minor traumatic brain injury. These patients may experience disorientation, dizziness, lack of balance , confusion, vision blurring, hearing, and temporary memory loss. The effects of a mild TBI may be periodically present for up to a year, along with possible headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, depression, mood swings, and seizures. Many minor brain injuries are the result of concussions.
Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury
Patients who are unconscious for 30 minutes to 24 hours, with a GCS of 9-12, are considered to have a moderate traumatic brain injury. Moderate brain injuries are characterized by more serious effects. These may include inability to communicate, partial paralysis, and diminished cognitive skills. Patients with moderate brain injuries are more likely to recover than those with a more severe prognosis, and may benefit from rehabilitation therapy.
Serious Traumatic Brain Injury
Those who remain in a state of coma for more than 24 hours will have a GCS of 8 or lower and are at a very high risk for life-long disabilities, a permanent vegetative condition, or death. These cases are considered serious traumatic brain injuries and the victims and their families are very likely to experience the most difficult physical, emotional and financial hardships.