Doctor looking at brain scans. Traumatic brain injury treatment.

How Is Traumatic Brain Injury Treated?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. In general, however, TBI is characterized as a brain injury that results from external forces. This might refer to blunt force trauma or whiplash-like injuries (closed brain injury) or a bullet or knife wound that pierces the skull (open or penetrating brain injury). Depending on exactly how TBI occurs, the severity of the injury, and the symptoms that result, TBI treatments can vary widely, too. Here’s a look at some of the treatments for traumatic brain injury. 

Emergency TBI Treatment

Experts suggest you seek emergency treatment for any head wound. While you may not experience many symptoms initially, secondary brain damage (such as swelling or pressure in the brain) can develop over time as a result of the initial injury or primary brain damage (such as fractures, contusions, and bleeding). 

Mild TBI Treatment

Mild TBI (such as a concussion with no contusions or fractures) may need very little treatment. Generally, your doctor will run a few tests to make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on and send you home. One of the key aspects of recovering from a mild injury is to get as much rest as possible to give your body plenty of strength to begin healing safely. 

Additionally, make sure you and those close to you understand what more serious symptoms look like, so you know if something is amiss. Avoid activities that are likely to cause a repeat injury, which can have much more serious consequences. You’ll likely visit your doctor one more time to make sure everything is okay before returning to your normal activities. 

Serious TBI Treatment

The goal for serious TBI is to treat any wounds, ensure the brain is getting enough blood and oxygen, manage blood pressure, and avoid further damage. This might include active, preventative, or observational treatments. 

TBI can result in symptoms like mild confusion and fatigue for a few days, or it can cause coma, seizures, or even death. For severe injuries that could lead to seizures, your doctors may have you start taking anti-seizure drugs for prevention. If your doctor is afraid of swelling or fluid in the brain you may begin taking diuretics, which encourage the body to expel fluid. In very severe situations, you may be given coma inducing medication so that the brain doesn’t need as much oxygen and can heal more easily. 

Certain emergency surgeries are sometimes necessary to stabilize TBI patients as well. Surgery may be necessary to manage contusions or hematomas (areas of clotted blood). This takes pressure off the brain and prevents damage from occurring to nearby areas. Pressure in the skull can also be relieved by creating a small “window” in the brain or draining any fluid that might build up. If the skull is fractured, surgery may be necessary to remove any splinters of bone and to repair the fracture itself. 

Rehabilitation from serious TBI can require a whole team of medical personnel. Depending on any symptoms, issues, or disabilities that result, you may work with a number of professionals to ensure the best possible recovery. 

Last Updated: April 05, 2017