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Anticipating the Long-term Side Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury

Some of the immediate effects of traumatic brain injuries are noticeable once a victim has sustained such an injury. Severe brain injuries cause loss of consciousness and coma, which are generally graded using the Glasgow Coma Scale to establish the severity of the brain injury. Short-term side effects of such injuries can include short-term hospitalization and rehabilitation. These short-term consequences are the result of side effects that doctors can observe through extensive medical testing shortly after the injury occurs and in the weeks following the injury.

However, while new research may allow medical professionals to better diagnose traumatic brain injuries and predict their immediate consequences, it is still extremely difficult to anticipate the long-term side effects of traumatic brain injuries. Many of the long-term side effects do not manifest until weeks, months, years, or even decades after an injury has occurred. Unfortunately, medical science has little research to allow medical professionals to accurately predict how a traumatic brain injury will affect a specific individual. However, research ahs shown some of the more common effects that traumatic brain injuries – especially repeated injuries – can have on victims. It is important to keep these potential long-term side effects in mind when planning for a victim’s care, or when pursuing compensation from someone that caused such an injury. Brainline.org provides some information on the potential long-term side effects of moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries so that families and victims can plan accordingly.

Anticipating Long-Term Effects

According to the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center, there is no uniform traumatic brain injury. The extent of a traumatic brain injury is dependent upon the individual circumstances surrounding the injury, including:

  1.     Severity of the initial injury;
  2.     Rate and completeness of physiological healing;
  3.     Types of functions affected;
  4.     Meaning of dysfunction in the individual’s life, in the context of his/her roles, values, and goals; and
  5.     Resources available to aid the recovery of function, etc.

Basically, many factors must be considered in trying to anticipate the long-term side effects a particular traumatic brain injury might have. It is often impossible to ascertain what long-term effects will remain from the initial injury until a victim has finished their initial recovery period, which could take months or years. When the initial recovery period has been completed, medical professionals can gain a better understanding of any lingering deficits that stem from the injury. By studying these deficits, it may sometimes be possible to determine if any other impairments may surface later in life as a result of the injury.

Thinking and Cognition

A typical lasting effect of a traumatic brain injury can often be seen in a victim’s cognitive function. Often, people that have sustained moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries experience problems with executive functions. Executive functions refer to the procedure of complex processing of large amounts of detailed information from the world around us. Thus, victims may have difficulty with some of the following tasks:

  •      Keeping track of time;
  •      Coordinating complex events;
  •      Planning ahead; and
  •      Making decisions involving substantial outside information.

Individuals may seem easily overwhelmed with otherwise routine tasks, or when a routine is interrupted for some reason. It may take them longer to speak or make a point, and they may take more time for problem-solving and other higher-order cognitive processes. Some individuals may be able to use rehabilitation services to find ways to compensate for these difficulties, while the damage in others may be severe enough to require constant assistance with certain tasks.

Behavior and Mood

A victim’s personality can be subtly or or substantially altered by a traumatic brain injury. Such alterations in a victim’s behavior may have a serious impact on the victim’s loved ones, as it may alter how the victim behaves on a regular basis. Some of the characteristics of a victim may no longer be the same, and a victim can also engage in distinctly different behaviors than they may have previously engaged in. For example, some victims may exhibit dependent behaviors while others lack inhibition they once had in social situations. Some victims may be irritable or aggressive while others may become docile and withdrawn. Many victims have difficulty in adapting their pattern of behavior to appropriately fit a given social situation. All of these changes in mood and behavior can be emotionally challenging for the victim’s loved ones, especially because many victims may not be aware of the difference between who they once were and who they are now.

Sensory and Other Changes

Victims may also experience changes in vision. Vision may become reduced or blurred, or victims may have trouble interpreting a visual stimulus. Other senses may also be affected. Hearing, touch, smell, and taste can all be affected by a traumatic brain injury because they are all functions routed through the brain. An individual may become overly sensitive to a particular smell or fabric, or their taste in food could completely change from what it was prior to the injury. Some victims also experience seizures and other complications that result from extensive damage to the nervous system as a result of traumatic brain injury.

Planning for Challenges

Traumatic brain injuries are extremely challenging for victims and their families. Many side effects of moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries require long-term care that may involve medical professionals. Initial treatment can be costly and have a significant impact on a family’s financial resources. When traumatic brain injuries are the result of someone else’s negligence, or are made worse because they were improperly diagnosed by a medical professional, victims and their families may be eligible to seek compensation to help offset large out-of-pocket medical costs that may accompany such injuries. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti to schedule a consultation about your possible case today, and find out what option are available to you based on the circumstances of the injury in question.

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