One of the potential devastating consequences of motor vehicle accidents is brain injury. Even minor crashes can cause the head to whip back and forth in a way that causes damage to the brain.

Although mild traumatic brain injuries typically cause minor, if any, symptoms, a severe TBI has long-lasting consequences.

Symptoms of, and treatment for, severe brain injury

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who suffer from moderate to severe TBIs experience a variety of symptoms. Physical symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness and/or inability to wake up
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constant and worsening headache
  • Pupil dilation
  • Drainage of clear fluids from ears or nose
  • Numbness in toes or fingers

A person with a severe TBI often also has mental symptoms that accompany the physical ones. These include confusion, slurred speech and agitation.

A severe TBI is an emergency situation, and anyone suffering from symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Some will need surgery to release pressure in the brain, repair skull fractures, remove blood clots or stop bleeding. For many patients, medication is necessary to limit secondary damage.

Once the medical team stabilizes the brain injury, ongoing rehabilitation is usually necessary to help the patient resume normal activities.

Long-term effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even with treatment and rehabilitation, many people with severe TBIs have long-lasting effects, similar to a chronic disease. Long-term changes in behavior, such as depression, personality changes and aggression, are common.

Patients often have issues with memory and attention. There may also be impairments related to sensation, with changes in vision, hearing and impaired touch. The changes that accompany brain injuries often affect a person’s ability to work and drive, and they also negatively affect relationships with friends and family.