TBI is a chronic disease, not a one-time event

Brain Scans

Traumatic brain injury is often thought of, and treated as, a one-time event. And yet, it is well understood that TBI is the root of many ongoing complications. Some complications can be seen immediately and continue for many years after the event: cognitive dysfunction, sleep disorders, motor impairments, or psychiatric disease. Some might not manifest until long after the event: seizures, hypopituitarism, or early onset of degenerative diseases like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.

In a recent commentary published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, Drs. Masel and DeWitt of the University of Texas wrote, "Historically, individuals living with a brain injury have been referred to as brain injury 'survivors'." As if staying alive was the endpoint of brain injury, the same way cure is the endpoint to cancer. "However," they continued, "annually in the United States alone, over 90,000 TBI patients become disabled," and many face a future of "an ongoing, perhaps life-long, process" of managing critical, permanent, and expensive complications.

Perhaps, as was suggested in this commentary, TBI should be referred to as "chronic traumatic brain injury disease" because this definition will help to researchers, clinicians, and legal professionals understand that TBI may require life-long support, assessment, treatment, and funding.

Masel BE, & DeWitt DS. Traumatic brain injury: A disease process, not an event. Journal of Neurotrauma. (June 2010).