Do You Remember If You’ve Had A Traumatic Brain Injury?
At Amen Clinics, we’ve successfully treated patients with head trauma for decades. In many cases, we’ve observed a type of amnesia when it comes to patients recalling earlier concussions, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or any other kind of head injury. Many people forget they’ve sustained a TBI when asked, “Did you ever have a brain injury?” Often, the question must be asked several times before the lightbulb goes off and the person remembers “that one time when…”
Sometimes, people have to be asked specifically if they ever fell out of a tree, dove into a shallow pool, were involved in a car accident or had concussions playing sports. A significant number of people who initially said no to the question about having a prior brain injury suddenly remember all sorts of incidents – like going through a windshield of a car, tripping down a flight of stairs or falling out of a third-story window – after seeing evidence of an injury on a scan.
Remembering Head Trauma
Research published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society demonstrates that this phenomenon isn’t unique to Amen Clinics. The research was based on a 35-year longitudinal study of 1,265 children. Of those who sustained a TBI, only slightly more than half of the people recalled that they had sustained a head injury when asked about it later in life. The other half completely forgot about it.
Additionally, the accuracy of their recall differed depending upon the severity of the injury. Those who sustained a moderate to severe head injury had almost perfect recall of having experienced a head injury at some point in their lives. However, most TBI’s are mild and the recall of these injuries is frequently quite poor.
The accuracy of recall also depends on how long ago the injury occurred – the farther back you go, the poorer the recall. It was also noted that the earlier in life the TBI occurred, the more vulnerable a person was to negative outcomes later in life…yet these are the same individuals who are most likely to forget that they even had a TBI.
While some people develop symptoms immediately after a TBI, others find that symptoms emerge over a period of weeks or months. Because of this delay, the underlying cause of the symptoms is often forgotten and never uncovered. Many times, doctors don’t ask about possible brain injuries and don’t actually look at the brain with imaging. Instead, the problems are frequently attributed to a psychiatric condition and the person is treated with medication.
The impact of head trauma is often overlooked in psychiatry. Even minor head injuries to vulnerable parts of the brain can cause problems for years to come. Brain SPECT imaging is one of the best tools for detecting the functional damage from TBI that’s often missed by CT and MRI studies.
Undiagnosed Head Injuries
It’s estimated that there are about 2 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. each year, in addition to hundreds of thousands of unreported incidents of head trauma, including undiagnosed concussions. Research shows that undiagnosed brain injuries are a major cause of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, ADD/ADHD, and suicide.
Some symptoms of TBI overlap with those of other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where sleep problems, irritability or anger, concentration problems and social isolation are commonly found in both. Because of this, people can be misdiagnosed and given the wrong type of treatment if no one actually looks at their brain.
If you or a family member have suffered a concussion or TBI, take these 3 steps toward brain recovery:
Ask the Right Questions
All too often concussions are not taken seriously unless a person has noticeable symptoms right after the head injury occurs. Many times, clinicians don’t know how to ask their patients about previous head injuries. However, it’s vitally important to ask patients multiple times and in multiple ways, because they often forget or dismiss such incidents as inconsequential. But every brain injury matters – even sub-concussive events. If you don’t already have a set of questions for assessing a head injury, consider using this list.
Know the Symptoms
While some people display warning signs immediately following a TBI, others don’t develop symptoms until weeks or even months later. The result of this delay is that the underlying cause of the symptoms is often forgotten. Here are some of the most common symptoms of mild to moderate TBI and concussions:
• Difficulty with concentration and paying attention
• Memory problems
• Difficulty with word finding
• Mental and/or physical fatigue
• Sleep problems
• Sensitivity to noise and/or light
• Anger outbursts
• Increased anxiety
• Social isolation
• Vision problems
• Balance problems
Take a Look
How can you really know if you have a head injury unless you get an image of your brain? Brain SPECT imaging is the best tool for determining if your brain has suffered functional damage from a concussion or TBI.
Brain SPECT imaging can:
• Help identify if there has been brain trauma
• Show brain blood flow deficits NOT visible in anatomical studies, such as CT or MRI
• Identify affected brain systems
• Help determine if there could be co-occurring conditions that need treatment
• Increase treatment compliance by showing pictures of results
• Provide scientific documentation that may help with special services or legal issues
Our Full Evaluation includes two SPECT images (concentrating and resting states), a detailed clinical history, neuropsychological testing and comprehensive evaluation with one of our doctors to target treatment specifically to your brain, using the least toxic, most effective means.
If you or a loved one have suffered a concussion or TBI and are experiencing anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviors, or memory loss, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule a visit.