Every year traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) result in concussions, disability and even death. In addition, TBIs are connected to memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. What really happens inside our brains when one of these injuries is sustained. Research and studies from scientists and physicians are helping us to see inside the brain to better understand what happens.
Typically caused by a bump or blow to the head, traumatic brain injuries affect an estimated 2.8 million people in the United States each year. Of those, nearly 90% are treated in the emergency room and released. TBIs range from mild to severe in nature and concussions, the most common type of TBI, are considered the mildest form. Over the span of six years, from 2007 to 2013, while rates of TBI-related ED visits increased by 47%, hospitalization rates decreased by 2.5% and death rates decreased by 5%.
It is now believed that one single severe head injury can lead to dementia. Despite this knowledge, and the increasing number patients headed to the ER, TBIs are considered a ‘silent epidemic’ because the scale and impact of TBIs has been overlooked for a long time. Some doctors and researchers in Europe are looking to change that.
‘Brain injuries are one of the most complex pathologies in the most complex organ in the body, the brain,’ said Dr William Stewart, consultant neuropathologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, UK. ‘We have tended to think of injuries in simplistic terms.’ In July, Dr Stewart and colleagues from Italy announced a discovery that might explain how brain injury can lead to dementia. A single severe injury caused a brain protein called tau to go rogue, slowly spreading through the brain and corrupting other tau proteins. This causes brain cell deaths and memory loss, and eventually dementia. Deformed tau is also present in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Concussions are no easier to discern. When looking at concussions, the nature of injuries to the cells appear to be the same in both mild and severe concussions. There is no definitive test to identify a concussion although doctors do identify if someone is concussed through examination. To learn more about concussions, diagnose and treat them more effectively, the collection of more patient data is needed. By capturing data about the patients reporting to hospitals, doctors can increase knowledge, form comparisons and trends and better define types of injuries… all leading to better care and more effective treatment plans.
To that end, CREACTIVE, a project that issues an annual report card to around 70 ICUs in seven countries, will collect the data from 7,000 patients through a study that began in 2014 and will conclude this year. “Having a good ability to predict whether the patient will recover well or have moderate (or severe) disability is very important,” said Dr Bertolini of Bergamo, Italy. Here in the US, similar studies seek to identify the effects of TBIs with the goal of helping to provide patients with the best possible treatment plans. And with the desire for care plans that do not rely on drugs or invasive techniques, there is sure to be more and more positive research coming forward.
At Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center, we are focused on providing the best possible treatment plans for TBIs, concussions and much more. We design care plans with our patients’ individual needs in mind and always without drugs or invasive procedures. If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion or TBI and would like to learn more about how we can help you, please contact us today.