Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. The damage can be focal (confined to one area of the brain) or diffuse (involving more than one area of the brain). A TBI can be a closed or penetrating injury. A closed head injury occurs when the head experiences an external physical force, but the skull is not penetrated. A penetrating injury occurs when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. The resulting injuries can produce altered consciousness, which can impair physical or cognitive functioning on either a temporary or permanent basis.

The forces inflicted on the head in TBI produce a complex mixture of diffuse and focal lesions within the brain. Damage resulting from an injury can be primary or secondary in nature. A primary injury results from immediate damage to the brain tissue or neurons themselves. A secondary injury results from disordered auto regulation and other pathophysiological changes within the brain in the days, weeks and months after injury.

Urgent neurosurgical intervention for intracerebral, subdural or extradural hemorrhages can mitigate the extent of secondary injury. Hypoxic or ischaemic injuries also significantly affect recovery and can be either primary or secondary in nature.[/two_third]

Facts About TBI

How many people have TBI?

TBIs contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability annually.
Of the 1.4 million who sustain a TBI each year in the United States:

  • 50,000 die
  • 235,000 are hospitalized
  • 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department

Among children ages 0 to 14 years, TBI results in an estimated:

  • 2,685 deaths
  • 37,000 hospitalizations
  • 435,000 emergency department visits annually

The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.

What causes TBI?

The leading causes of TBI are:

  • Falls (35.2%);
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%);
  • Struck by/against events (16.5%); and
  • Assaults (10%)
  • Unknown (21%)

What are the long-term outcomes of TBI?

CDC estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans, approximately 2% of the U.S. population, currently
have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI.
TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, and/or
emotions. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.[/toggle]

What are the costs of TBI?

Direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity of TBI totaled an estimated $60 billion
in the United States in 2000.[/toggle]


1. Langlois JA, Rutland-Brown W, Thomas KE. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: emergency
department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2004.
2. Thurman D, Alverson C, Dunn K, Guerrero J, Sniezek J. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: a public health perspective. Journal of Head Trauma and Rehabilitation 1999;14(6):602–15.
3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic brain injury: hope through research. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health; 2002 Feb. NIH Publication No.: 02–158.
4. Finkelstein E, Corso P, Miller T and associates. The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York (NY): Oxford University Press; 2006.
*All information taken from the CDC Web site.