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Learn about TBI > Characteristics of TBI

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.com, 2006) is:

  • the most prevalent TBI
  • often missed at time of initial injury
  • the reason why 15% of people have symptoms that last one year or more
  • the result of the forceful motion of the head or impact causing a brief change in mental status (confusion, disorientation, or loss of memory) or loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes
  • referred to as post-concussive syndrome when describing the post-injury symptoms

Common symptoms of mild TBI

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • visual disturbances
  • memory loss
  • poor attention/concentration
  • sleep disturbances
  • dizziness/loss of balance
  • irritability/emotional disturbances
  • feelings of depression
  • seizures
  • Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13-15 (CDC, 2006)

Other symptoms associated with mild TBI

  • nausea
  • loss of smell
  • sensitivity to light and sounds
  • mood changes
  • getting lost or confused
  • slowness in thinking

Moderate TBI:

  • results in permanent neurobiological damage
  • produces lifelong deficits to varying degrees
  • is defined as unconsciousness from 20 minutes to 6 hours and a score on the Glasgow Coma scale of 9 to 12
  • takes place in 15 out of 100,000 people
  • death occurs 25% of the time (Dawodu, 2005)

Common symptoms of moderate TBI

All areas of functioning may be affected by a moderate injury. This includes cognitive performance, vision, hearing, communication, sensory perception, personality, taste, physical characteristics, social-emotional, and neurological (seizures). These symptoms may be observed to a lesser degree than with a severe TBI.

  • coma (to varying degrees)
  • confusion
  • difficulty with "thinking skills" (memory, attention, judgment)
  • blurred vision, loss of vision
  • change in hearing acuity
  • ringing in ears
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty understanding spoken language
  • difficulty processing sensory input (touch, smell, hearing, etc.)
  • personality changes
  • loss of taste and/or smell
  • paralysis
  • lethargy
  • loss of bowel/bladder control
  • dizziness
  • inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, frustration, crying, or laughing)
  • seizures

Severe TBI:

  • results in significant permanent neurological damage
  • produces lifelong deficits to a severe degree
  • may require lifetime care and assistance
  • is defined as a loss of consciousness greater than 6 hours and Glasgow Coma scale of 3 to 8
  • occurs in 14 out of 100,000 people
  • results in death 33% of the time (Dawodu, 2005)