Traumatic brain injury is not always immediately recognisable

Also known as TBI, traumatic brain injury is more common than most people think. In the Netherlands, an estimated 85,000 people sustain traumatic brain injuries every year. 21,000 of them are hospitalised. But what exactly is traumatic brain injury and what are the consequences?

In practice, the term traumatic brain injury sometimes leads to misunderstandings, since the word 'traumatic' does not refer to the traumatic effects of the brain injury, but to trauma, which means accident. Traumatic brain injury is therefore caused by something outside the body, for example, a traffic accident, a fall from the stairs or a blow to the head. In the case of a traumatic brain injury, damage to the brain occurs, which causes brain cells, blood vessels and nerve bundles to break down. This causes a swelling in the brain, sometimes in combination with bruising.

Resulting in death

In the worst case, traumatic brain injury can result in death. This may be the case, for example, if there is a traumatic brain injury with a skull injury. Bone parts penetrate the brain as a result of a skull fracture. Traumatic brain injury with skull injury may also involve an intruding object, such as a bullet, stabbing weapon or metal object.

Young children aged between 0 and 4 years are the highest risk group, followed by young people aged 15 to 24 years (mainly men) and people over the age of 80.

In the elderly group, the brain injury is often caused by a fall in or around the home.

Recognising concussion 

Fortunately, 80 to 85% of people suffer a mild traumatic brain injury, popularly known as a concussion. This usually has no lasting consequences.

People with concussion recover at home, sometimes after a visit to the doctor or the emergency department at the hospital. In order to identify possible complications, such as a brain haemorrhage, in time, it is important that the symptoms of a concussion are recognised quickly. However, particularly in children, it is not always easy to recognise the symptoms of a concussion. For that reason, Neuroflash clearly lists the most important symptoms of a concussion in children.

The main symptoms of concussion in children

1. (Briefly) being unconscious
2. Not crying immediately after the blow
3. Not responding to being addressed
4. Being confused
5. Looking cross-eyed
6. Acting stunned or drowsy
7. Nausea, vomiting
8. Making awkward, clumsy, or jerky movements
9. Instability when walking
10. Dizziness or problems with balance

Permanent damage

Sometimes after a concussion at a later stage, complaints still arise, for which treatment is still required. However, in the case of moderate or serious traumatic injuries, the risk of permanent damage is considerably higher. Treatment and rehabilitation are often required to minimise the consequences for the victims and to teach them how to deal with it. The consequences are diverse and range from paralysis on one side of the body to epilepsy and incontinence. Partial paralysis or loss of muscle strength on one side of the body is also one of the consequences, as is the loss of a part of the visual field or the appearance of a half-sided sensation disorder. In the latter case, the patient experiences less sensation on one side of the body. Which sensation this concerns varies from person to person and can vary from pain to heat to cold and touch.

Invisible, cognitive consequences

In addition to visible physical consequences, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury can also have a variety of invisible cognitive consequences. For example, people with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury may have difficulty concentrating and dividing their attention, and experience a slower speed of thinking and information processing. They may also be hypersensitive to external stimuli, such as light and sound, and experience memory disorders. The latter may mean that they are no longer able to recognise faces or objects. Disruptions in the planning and carrying out goal-directed activities can disrupt their daily life. For example, simple, common daily activities, such as making coffee and cooking, can lead to insurmountable problems. Many people with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury also experience constant, extreme fatigue.

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