Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Incidence of brain injury higher than previously thought

Brain injury can be slumbering and can go unnoticed for a long time, especially if the damage is mild. However, the actual health impact may be much larger, predominantly because the brain is tasked with regulating and controlling many of our bodily functions, both the voluntary and involuntary ones. According to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic, we may be missing many cases in which the patient has obtained brain injury. Clinicians are thought to frequently miss cases of brain injury due to lack of visible or distinguishable symptoms. A new assessment system ought to change this.

The Mayo Clinic compared their numbers with the CDC, an American organization that keeps track of patient numbers, among other things. By assessing a large variety of symptoms in a large number of patients, they made a list of people that were considered to be a 'possible', 'probably' or 'definite' for traumatic brain injury (TBI). This scale is more comprehensive than used by the CDC. It resulted in 60 percent more cases of TBI than originally thought.

Hidden symptoms
By incorporating more symptoms in their assessment, the scientists were able to construct a more complete assessment of someone's brain function. Especially 'hidden' symptoms such as a brief period of unconsciousness, nausea or dizziness are often ignored. It basically means serious forms of TBI are more likely to be recognized, despite milder forms being symptomatic. It also reveals that a large number of patients remains untreated, while two-thirds of the patients with undiagnosed TBI suffers from recognizable symptoms.

The brain
Bodily functions, such as the control of muscles, blood flow, organ function, regulation of blood pressure, pH and almost all other things you can think of are ultimately controlled by the brain. It consists of different areas that all have their own speciality. That also explains why brain injury can sometimes go unnoticed, or manifest in very general symptoms. If your brain stem stops functioning, it means regulation of breathing and blood flow stops, and you instantly die. However, subtle damage in muscle regulation areas can be regarded as symptoms of something else, or simply ignored.
A rough distinction of brain areas.
It is of vital importance that brain injuries are recognized, because we use our 'grey matter' for basically all bodily functions. That is also why a great variety of symptoms is associated with TBI. A new assessment could help clinicians to recognize brain injury more effectively, which could be a great help for treatment. 

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