More than 1 million head injuries occur every year in the United States.
Because head injuries (also known as traumatic brain injuries) are common and may have devastating effects, preventing them is critical.
Traumatic brain injury is the result of a blow to the head. This can come
from a fall, a vehicle crash, an assault, or shaking a baby. The brain tissue
itself may be injured, the blood vessels can rupture and cause bleeding, or
a combination of these injuries may occur. Concussion (a
temporary loss of brain function), contusion (bruising
of the brain), fracture (broken skull bones), and hematoma (blood clot) are all types of traumatic brain
injury. The September 28, 2005, issue of JAMA includes
2 articles about head injury. This Patient Page is based on one previously
published in the June 11, 2003, issue.
Loss of consciousness
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Nausea or vomiting
Wear a seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle.
Wear a helmet for motorcycle riding, bicycle riding, or other
activities that risk head injury.
Use alcohol only in moderation and never while driving or boating.
Assist the elderly in maintaining a safe environment and preventing
Computed tomographic (CT) scan tests use high-speed x-rays. CT images can show swelling,
bleeding, or compression of brain tissue.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests use magnetic energy to produce detailed images of brain
tissue, bones, and other structures.
Oxygen may be given by mask, nasal tubing, or ventilator (breathing machine). Individuals who are unconscious (comatose) may require a ventilator to breathe for them.
Medicines to prevent or treat seizures, decrease brain swelling,
control agitation, or control blood pressure may be given to patients with
brain injury. The more severe the injury, the more medications and treatments
Hypothermia (lowered body temperature)
has been shown in some medical studies to help improve recovery after a severe
traumatic brain injury. This must be done as part of intensive care for a
severe brain injury and must be carefully monitored. Further research is required
to determine the effectiveness of this treatment.
After the acute phase (first part) of
care for the injury, persons with traumatic brain injury often receive intensive
rehabilitation to maximize their functional level (what
they are able to do) and improve their overall recovery.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokehttp://www.ninds.nih.gov
Brain Injury Association of America 800/444-6443 http://www.biausa.org
Brain Trauma Foundation 212/772-0608 http://www.braintrauma.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish.
Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Brain
Injury Association of America, Brain Trauma Foundation
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Head Injury. JAMA. 2005;294(12):1580. doi:10.1001/jama.294.12.1580