Federal researchers want to raise the public’s awareness about risks associated with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and how to recognize the symptoms, which could sometimes make the difference between life and death.
The FDA launched a new campaign last week, which is intended to help the public and medical community better identify the signs, symptoms, and causes of head trauma. The agency also reiterated previous warnings against the use of medical devices which have not been approved by the FDA for the diagnosis and treatment of serious head trauma.
Traumatic brain injuries can happen when a sudden movement of the head causes the brain to bounce or twist in the skull, injuring brain cells, breaking blood vessels, and creating chemical changes. The sudden movement can be caused by many different issues, including car accidents, sports concussions, falls, explosions or other blows to the head.
These injuries can occur while easily remaining undetectable to the injured person, frequently resulting from bumps, blows, jolts, or an explosive blast near the head.
Not every hit to the head will result in head trauma, but TBIs can range in damage from mild to severe. Fortunately, three out of four TBIs are mild, according to the FDA.
Symptoms of mild TBI include:
- ringing in the ears
- memory impairment
- blurred vision
- behavioral changes
Moderate and severe TBI can produce more severe symptoms including:
- repeated vomiting or nausea
- slurred speech
- weakness in the arms or legs
- problems with thinking and learning
The FDA’s main goal of the new campaign is to explain how to identify and diagnose traumatic brain injuries, whose symptoms can be easily missed when the injury is mild. The first step in diagnosis begins with a medical exam to test thinking, motor functions, sensory function, coordination, eye movement, and reflexes. After, image testing is done with CT scans and MRI scans, but those tests are limited in their ability to find all severe brain injuries.
The scans help detect more serious injuries such as bleeding from the head injury which then require immediate medical attention. The FDA also states scans alone are not able to confirm a concussion and other head trauma, and an injured persons should not rely solely on a scan for diagnosis.
The campaign comes as traumatic brain injuries from falls are reportedly on the rise. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study warning deaths from head trauma after a fall increased by 17% from 2008 to 2018.
Traumatic brain injures can have both serious physical and psychological-altering effects on a person. Serious concussions can result in permanent long-term problems, such as emotional problems, permanent cognitive disability, increased risk of suicide, and developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.
The FDA indicates it will continue to study TBI injuries and is encouraging the development of new medical devices in order to help diagnose and treat these injuries.