Diagnosis Traumatic Brain Injury

Anyone with signs of moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) should receive medical attention as soon as possible. Little can be done to reverse the brain damage caused by an accident or injury, but healthcare workers try to keep the injured person's condition stable and prevent further injury.

If you or a loved one has a TBI, your healthcare team will work to:

  • Keep enough oxygen and blood flowing to your brain and the rest of your body
  • Control your blood pressure

TBI diagnosis

Imaging tests help to diagnose TBI. Patients with moderate to severe TBI have a computed tomography (CT) scan of the head and are closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU).

TBI treatment and rehabilitation

Treatments for moderate to severe TBI range from medical treatment to surgery.

After recovering first in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU), TBI patients with disabilities receive rehabilitation treatment (treatment to help a person regain as much function as possible). Our individualized treatment programs include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Physiatry (physical medicine)
  • Psychology or psychiatry and social support

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis (how well doctors expect you to recover from a disease or injury) is different for each person with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Approximately 50 percent of patients with severe head injuries need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue).

Patients may have disabilities after a TBI. Disabilities mean that patients aren't able to do activities most people can, or can only do these activities with restrictions or help.

The type and severity of disabilities caused by a TBI depend on the:

  • Severity of your injury
  • Location of your injury
  • Your age and general health

Common disabilities for TBI patients include problems with:

  • Sensory processing (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch)
  • Cognition (thinking, reasoning and memory)
  • Mental health or behavior (anxiety, depression, personality changes, aggressiveness, acting out, being socially inappropriate)
  • Communication (expressing yourself and understanding others)

Patients with more serious head injuries may have more severe problems, including:

  • Stupor (partially or completely unresponsive, only respond to strong stimuli)
  • Coma (totally unconscious, cannot be aroused)
  • Vegetative state (unconscious and unaware of surroundings, but continue to have a sleep-wake cycle and periods of being alert)
  • Persistent vegetative state [PVS] (vegetative state lasting longer than a month)

Research on traumatic brain injury at the OHSU Brain Institute

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is a part of a nationally sponsored, multi-institution study to evaluate progesterone treatments for traumatic brain injuries. Early studies suggest that progesterone (a naturally occurring hormone) stops damage to brain cells if it's administered within four hours of a blow to your head or other traumatic head injury.

The study is called Progesterone for the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury, or ProTECT™.