Traumatic Brain Injury: Causes and Effects

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Causes of TBI are diverse, and include car accident, firearms, and falls

Approximately 1.5 million people a year in the U.S. suffer from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year 50,000 people die from TBI and 85,000 people suffer long-term disabilities caused by TBI.

Causes of TBI are diverse, with the top three being: car accident, firearms, and falls. The elderly and young adults are the age groups that have the highest risk for TBI. Since there is no cure for TBI, prevention is the best approach.

Mechanisms of Traumatic Brain Injury

These cause the highest incidences of TBIs: Open Head Injury, Closed Head Injury, Deceleration Injuries, Chemical/Toxic, Hypoxia, Tumors, Infections and Stroke.

A closer look at the mechanisms of traumatic brain injury

  1. Open Head Injury - defined as a penetration of the skull, largely resulting in focal damage. Effects can be just as serious as a closed brain injury.

  2. Closed Head Injury - no penetration of the skull occurs, resulting in focal damage and diffuse damage to axons.

  3. Deceleration Injuries - Because the brain is soft and the skull is hard the brain moves at a different rate than the skull. The differential movement of the skull and the brain when the head is struck can result in direct brain injury due to diffuse axonal shearing, contusion, and brain swelling.

  4. Chemical/Toxic - known as metabolic disorders, this occurs when harmful chemicals, such as insecticides and solvents damage the neurons.

  5. Hypoxia (Lack of Oxygen) - Irreversible brain injury can occur when the blood flow is depleted of oxygen, even if only for a few minutes. This can be caused by heart attacks or respiratory failure amongst other things and can result in severe cognitive and memory deficits.

  6. Tumors - can cause brain injury by invading the spaces of the brain causing direct damage but damage can also result from pressure effects around an enlarged tumor. Surgical procedures to remove tumors may also cause damage.

  7. Infections - Viruses and bacteria can cause serious and life-threatening diseases of the brain.

  8. Stroke - Cell death in the area deprived of blood results when blood flow is blocked through a cerebral vascular accident (stroke). If there is bleeding in or over the brain because of a tear in an artery or vein, loss of blood flow and injury to the brain tissue by the blood will also result in brain damage.

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