An estimated 4.8 million people who visit an emergency room for a head injury each year are diagnosed with what’s called a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, or mTBI—making it both a widespread and increasingly common condition.
But just what is a mild traumatic brain injury? Moreover, why is the term ‘mild’ used to describe an injury that often anything but? Follow along as we answer these common questions, and find out what a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury is in terms that make sense to you.
In head injury parlance, a traumatic brain injury is any injury (or ‘trauma’) that disrupts the brain's normal function. This could be caused by a direct hit to the head (such as through a sports-injury), through a fall, or through another forceful accident (such as a car-collision or explosive blast). The point is, a sudden trauma caused damage to the brain.
A mild traumatic brain injury is simply a traumatic brain injury that’s been labeled as mild, as indicated by a lack of moderate to severe symptoms following the trauma. In other words, “mild” in this context does not refer to the cause of head injury itself (such as not mild car crash) but rather the symptoms caused by the event.
Yes. While the affects from a concussion can range from mild to severe, a concussion is technically the same as a mild traumatic brain injury. That said, both terms are often used interchangeably when a person experiences a change in normal brain function for no longer than a few minutes following trauma.
Mild traumatic brain injury symptoms range from mild to moderate, and can occur immediately or sometime after the traumatic brain injury. Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) can cause a variety of changes in brain activity, often leading to headaches, fatigue, disorientation, or irritability.
Other common symptoms include:
Keep in mind: if you experience loss of consciousness for more than few minutes, repeated vomiting or nausea, or convulsions and/or seizures, it may be a sign of (more than mild) moderate or severe traumatic brain injury. Seek emergency medical care if you experience any of these signs or symptoms following a traumatic injury to the head.
When it comes to mild head injuries, it’s important to get a proper and expedient examination from a doctor right away. Only a professional will know what signs to look for to determine if you have debilitating issues that need further treatment.
That said, left untreated, consequences can worsen rapidly following more traumatic brain injuries. If you experience any of the following symptoms following a head injury, contact your doctor or emergency services immediately to assess the situation quickly.
Fortunately, there are many ways to treat a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, once you know you you have one.
Generally your doctor will assess the severity of your brain injury using what’s called the “Glasgow Coma Scale,”—a simple test that measures a person’s ability to follow directions and move their eyes and limbs. If you receive a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13-15, this indicates that you have a mild traumatic brain injury and not one that is moderate or severe. From there, your physician or doctor may perform a medical screening followed by a series of imaging tests (such as a CT scan or an MRI) to visualize possible issues, and recommend a treatment plan that’s tailored for you.
Treatment for a mild traumatic brain injury can range from over-the-counter pain medication (for mild injury) to diuretics and anti-seizure drugs for more severe cases. Your doctor might also recommend surgery and/or rehabilitation depending on the severity of your condition.
As mentioned, a vast variety of treatment options exist to treat a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. If you’re experiencing head or neck pain or discomfort following your brain injury, and know you’ve scored between 13 and 15 on a Glasgow Coma Scale, it may be time to pay a visit to your local pain doctor.
At the Comprehensive Spine Center of Dallas, we’re experts in the treatment of mTBI, and can perform a full assessment to first determine if you have one, and, if so, what treatment options exist. If your condition is more severe than desired, we can also help you weigh the benefits of more risky procedures, such as surgery, with the known risks.
Ready to treat your Mild Traumatic Brain Injury? Schedule a virtual appointment with a Comprehensive Spine Center of Dallas specialist today!
Keep in mind: mTBI’s are commonly misdiagnosed or, often, not diagnosed at all. Many people do not even know they have a mild traumatic brain injury when they do. If you feel off, confused, anxious, or agitated, or if you can’t sleep or your memory is poor, contact us to find out why.