What is a brain injury?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to damage to the brain caused by an external physical force such as a car accident, a gunshot wound to the head, or a fall. A TBI is not caused by something internal such as a stroke or tumor, and does not include damage to the brain due to prolonged lack of oxygen (anoxic brain injuries). It is possible to have a TBI and never lose consciousness. For example, someone with a penetrating gunshot wound to the head may not lose consciousness.
Commonly accepted criteria established by the TBI Model Systems (TBIMS) to identify the presence and severity of TBI include:
Damage to brain tissue caused by an external force and at least one of the following:
- A documented loss of consciousness
- The person cannot recall the actual traumatic event (amnesia)
- The person has a skull fracture, post-traumatic seizure, or an abnormal brain scan due to the trauma
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Causes of TBI
Statistics from Centers for Disease Control for 2002-2006 indicate that the leading cause of brain injury is falls (35%) followed by car crashes (17%) and being struck by an object (16%). Emergency room visits due to TBI caused by falls are increasing for both younger and older people. However, if you focus only on moderate to severe TBI (those injuries that require admission to a neurointensive care unit), car crashes are the most frequent cause of TBI, followed by gunshot wound, falls, and assault.