A mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the head moves violently or is struck. Often referred to as post-concussion syndrome, mild TBI is called an "unseen injury" because its effects may not be obvious; and may or may not appear on medical test results.
For some individuals with a mild traumatic brain injury, the symptoms may disappear quickly, while others may develop persistent symptoms that can change the personality of the patient, disrupt their senses and even interfere with cognitive abilities. Among the short-term symptoms that may occur are:
- Slurred Speech
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Visual changes
Ongoing symptoms may include the short-term symptoms described above, as well as:
- Mood swings
- Decreased learning ability
- Decreased attention
- Memory problems
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Impaired planning or organization
- Double vision or blurred vision
- Smell and taste changes
- Increased fears, anxieties or depression
- Alcohol intolerance or changed tolerance to medications
- Slowed information processing
- Sensitivity to light, noise, crowds, busy environments
- Motion sickness
- Sleep and sexual problems
- Subtle personality changes
- Emotional inappropriateness
- Balance problems
A thorough evaluation, including a neuropsychological evaluation, is the first step to determine functional deficits. This in-depth examination focuses on an individual’s attention and concentration, memory, problem solving, intellectual level, sensory and perceptual abilities, along with academic achievement and emotional condition. The evaluation determines a pattern of mental strengths and weaknesses and how these patterns affect an individual’s ability to complete social and vocational tasks. This non-invasive evaluation may include a clinical interview, record review and standardized neuropsychological tests.
Other tests that may be used to identify mild TBI include a neurological examination and a psychological assessment. Together the results will identify the course of treatment.
Treatment for mild TBI focuses on helping patients return to an active, productive lifestyle. The individualized treatment plan may include
- Physical therapy to address dizziness and balance issues
- Occupational therapy to address daily activities and functional vision deficits
- Speech/language therapy to improve language and cognitive deficits
- Psychological counseling to cope with concerns at home or work
- Vision clinic assessment by a neuro-optometrist, if required
Treatment should always emphasize a team approach and include the patient and family, as well as a case manager, neurologist, physiatrist, neuropsychologist or psychologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech/language pathologist.
Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital has an innovative Mild TBI/Post-Concussion Rehabilitation Program that incorporates the treatment components mentioned above. If you are suffering from the effects of mild TBI or post-concussion syndrome, ask your doctor if a rehabilitation program can help you.