The recent events in Tucson, AZ, demonstrate our ability to respond to and treat people with severe traumatic brain injuries.
The recent events in Tucson, Arizona demonstrate our ability to respond to and treat people with severe traumatic brain injuries. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was the recipient of lessons learned in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and the development of first class trauma centers, like the one at the University Medical Center in Tucson. As a result more and more people are surviving severe traumatic brain injuries and will require the same level of expertise in the rehabilitation phase of their injury. Fortunately we have made great strides in the rehabilitation of people with severe traumatic brain injuries.
The information released by Representative Giffords' physicians tells us that the bullet traveled through the left side of her brain. They also pointed out that the damage is not done just by the bullet passing through the brain but also by the shock wave or "cavitation effect" that damages the brain tissue around the bullet track. This makes it difficult to predict Representative Giffords' future and her physicians appropriately did not speculate on her degree of recovery. I am frequently gratified by the impressive recoveries that many patients make after extensive rehabilitation efforts. However, I think we can look at what problems most brain injury survivors experience after a severe traumatic brain injury.
Severe brain injuries damage multiple areas of the brain and patients are left with numerous problems. Once the life-saving surgery is completed and the patient eventually leaves the acute care hospital for rehabilitation, these problems can be placed in three categories: physical disabilities, cognitive problems and behavioral symptoms. We will take a look at these three main areas of disability.
Physical disabilities are the most apparent to the laymen meeting someone with a disability, but the cognitive and behavioral disabilities can represent a much greater problem. I have patients that run businesses and travel all over the world from a wheelchair, but cognitive and behavioral disabilities keep people from returning home or back to work.
Attention and Concentration: The ability to pay attention and concentrate exists at a number of different levels and is distributed throughout areas of the brain. A person with a brain injury may lose their ability to focus on a task for longer than a few minutes or may become easily distracted by things going on around them.
As daunting as the above problems sound, behavioral problems can be the most challenging of all. Brain injury tends to exaggerate a person's preexisting personality traits. If someone was short tempered or irritable before the injury, they may be much worse afterwards. Here are some of the behavioral problems that we commonly encounter in patients after a severe traumatic brain injury:
Depression: This can be as a direct result of the damage to the brain and a change in the chemicals in the brain. However, depression tends to appear later when she realizes what she has lost and becomes aware of her disabilities. Hand in hand with depression goes a loss of self esteem, mood swings and anxiety.
This is just a brief and superficial review of what a brain injured survivor and their family may face. The good news is that rehabilitation that starts at a Brain Injury Program in an Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital and progresses to transitional and outpatient programs can make all the difference in the world. Additional information can be found in my book "Living with Brain Injury: A Guide for Families" or the educational DVD, "Brain Injury: A Look Inside" that also contains graphic pictures of actual brain injuries.
Source: The Huffington Post
More on Traumatic Brain Injury and the Tuscon Shootings Around the Web