Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine defines a mild traumatic brain injury as a patient who has had a traumatically-induced physiological disruption of brain function, as manifested by at least one of the following:

  1. Any period of loss of consciousness,
  2. Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident,
  3. Any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g. feeling dazed, disoriented or confused), and/or
  4. Focal neurological deficit(s) which may or may not be transient.
  5. BUT where the severity of the injury does not exceed the following:

  6. Loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less;
  7. After 30 minutes an initial Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13-15; and
  8. Post-traumatic amnesia not greater than 24 hours.

The term “mild brain injury” can be misleading since the term “mild” is used to reference the severity of the initial physical trauma that caused the injury, not the consequences of such injury, which in can be long-term and life-changing.

Characteristics:

  • Commonly referred to as concussion.
  • Most prevalent type of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Often missed at time of initial injury because a patient’s subjective complaints (symptoms) may not appear for days, weeks, months and in some cases longer than a year.
  • There may be no gross pathology or objective findings, such as hemorrhage or abnormalities that can be seen on a conventional CT scan of the brain. Instead, it causes rapid-onset neurophysiological and neurological dysfunction that in most patients (85%) resolves in a spontaneous manner over a fairly short period of time. However, approximately 15% of individuals with mild TBI (referred to as the miserable minority), develop persistent cognitive dysfunction. 1
  • The person looks normal and often moves normal in spite of not feeling or thinking normal, which might make diagnosis easy to miss.
  • Even though this type of traumatic brain injury is called “mild,” the effect on the injured person and his/her family can be devastating.

Common Symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness, confusion and/or disorientation,
  • Fatigue,
  • Headaches,
  • Visual disturbances,
  • Memory loss,
  • Sleep disturbances,
  • Dizziness/loss of balance, and/or
  • Seizures.

Other Symptoms:

  • Nausea,
  • Sensitivity of Light,
  • Mood changes, irritability, and/or emotional disturbances,
  • Slowness in thinking, and/or
  • Getting lost or confused.
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