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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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Treating Brain Injuries

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“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” We all remember those late night commercials with the senior citizen pushing the button on her necklace to summon immediate help. I hope that help included a trip to the hospital to check for brain injury. According to a new study released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans age 65 and older fall. Of those falls, brain injuries account for half of the deaths. This astounding new find adds to the growing concern about head injuries. Asn previously discussed , there are more than 5 million Americans living with the effects of a brain injury. Each year, 1.4 million Americans acquire a new brain injury. So what do you do if you’re one such American?

You can mitigate the damage and effects of a brain injury by immediately seeking treatment. Treatment occurs in three stages: acute, subacute, and chronic . During the acute phase, the goal is to stabilize the victim promptly following injury. The process of stabilization varies and largely depends on the severity of injury. Mild brain injuries tend to not have lasting effects. However, you should seek medical attention following any accidents. A medical provider will be able to better assess your situation and give you the appropriate treatment. Usually, concussions will require rest and a refrain from operating a motor vehicle for a few days. Additionally, you may want to consult with a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist is especially helpful with mild brain injuries because they are able to administer tests that will detect subtle symptoms. The tests can determine any change in personality and intellect.

More severe injuries can have longer lasting effects. In traumatic brain injuries, the brain is constantly in danger of swelling. Treatment must be maintained by a physician that can refer you to a neurologist. The neurologist can monitor brain fluid activity with a device called ICP Monitor. The device is implanted through the skull and provides physicians with a constant pressure reading. When fluid levels are too high, medications are administered to alleviate the swelling. Some neurologists may opt for using a “shunt” instead. This is a tube that can be inserted to drain fluid build-up. In addition to monitoring swelling, your physician may prescribe anti-seizure medicines. Since seizures are often a side effect of brain injuries—mild or traumatic—it is not uncommon to use medication to prevent seizures.

The subacute phase of treatment involves rehabilitation. Rehab is important because it can facilitate recovery and provides an avenue for early detection of complications. A patient’s recovery and quality of life will often depend on the accuracy of the rehab program to the injury. The more tailored the program is to the individual, the better results. Also, since the injury is to the mind, it is important to choose a rehab facility that can offer cognitive rehabilitation programs to supplement any physical rehabilitation needed.

Finally, chronic treatment is needed for the most traumatic head injuries. This phase of treatment is a continuance of rehabilitation for long-term impairments. There are generally two categories of chronic treatment: community-based rehabilitation and treatment of consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The categories differ in approach. You can read more about chronic treatment here. Also, please keep in mind that surgery may be an option for any type of brain injury; but it is best to consult with your physician about surgical alternatives first.

Aside from medical help, you may also need legal assistance. If you feel that you or a loved one have received a brain injury as a result of another party’s actions, you should consult an attorney about your rights. An attorney can help navigate you through the legal issues and can act as your liaison with the insurance companies. Furthermore, an attorney can initiate a lawsuit against the party responsible for the brain injuries. You may visit InjuryBoard to search for a qualified personal injury attorney.

For more information and assistance on brain injuries, please contact any of the following organizations:

Brain Injury Association of America
www.biausa.org
800-444-6443

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov
800-311-3435

Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
www.dvbic.org
800-870-9244

Health Resources and Services Administration
www.hrsa.gov
301-443-3376

National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
www.nashia.org
301-656-3500

National Brain Injury Research Treatment and Training Foundation
www.nbirtt.org
434-220-4824

National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, NICHD, NIH
www.nichd.nih.gov/about/ncmrr
800-370-2943

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr
202-245-7640

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH
www.ninds.nih.gov
800-352-9424

North American Brain Injury Society
www.nabis.org
703-960-6500

Social Security Administration
www.ssa.gov
800-772-1213