Traumatic Brain Injury Causes Progressive Damage

The initial trauma that causes brain injury is just the beginning of the health nightmare.

New research published in the November issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine used sophisticated imaging techniques to track how brain structures change over time after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the results of the research will help scientists and physicians develop better ways to treat people after brain trauma, the news was disheartening for anyone who has suffered TBI.

We know that TBI is a major cause of disability for children and young adults, often resulting in memory and attention problems, mood and behavioral issues, epilepsy, and difficulties in the areas of learning and decision making. According to a press release by SNM, an organization devoted to raising public awareness about the benefits of medical and molecular imaging, the researchers found that the brain changes physically and functionally for about 3 to 6 months after the initial injury. Specifically:

Widespread decreases in brain functioning were seen in specific brain regions, many of which are remote from the site of direct trauma and unaccompanied by signs of injury on the MRI. The hippocampus, a brain structure critical to memory and emotion, is the key area of these changes. This may have implications for the pathophysiology of some of the long-term neurological and psychiatric morbidity, seen following TBI, even when abnormalities are not obvious on structural MRI.

Basically, this means that after a brain injury, the part of the brain most involved with memory and emotion stops working as well as before the injury…even if that part of the brain was not injured in the original trauma.

Overall, the scientists hope that the results of this research can help in the development of new treatments that might be able to halt the progressive degradation of brain function. For the rest of us, the lesson is about the importance of medical treatment—just because you walk away from a head injury, it doesn’t mean that your brain hasn’t suffered damage. In fact, the full extent of your injury may not be known for months. Seek medical attention immediately after any head trauma that is more than a minor bump. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


The abstract and citation for the study mentioned above is available here: Journal of Nuclear Medicine

To read more about traumatic brain injury, or to learn about your legal options after personal injury, visit the HensonFuerst website. If you have questions, we have answers.

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