A recent study found that 37% of car crash victims admitted to hospital were diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, majority (79%) of which were defined as minor. Mild TBIs occur more often in women, younger drivers, and those who were wearing seat-belts at the time of the crash. It is important to check for brain injury too, and not just neck injury, after a low-speed car crash.
There is certainly a lot of interest in concussion these days between big screen movies, football, and other sports-related injuries.
Concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) are often used interchangeably. Though mTBI is not the first thing we think about in a low-speed motor vehicle collision (MVC), it does happen.
Statistics On Traumatic Brain Injuries Due To Vehicle Collisions
So, how often do MVC-related TBIs occur, how does one know they have it, and is it usually permanent or long lasting? Here are some interesting statistics:
- The incidence rate of fatal and hospitalized TBI in 1994 was estimated to be 91/100,000 (~1%).
- Each year in the United States, for every person who dies from a brain injury, five are admitted to hospitals and an additional 26 seek treatment for TBI.
- About 80% of TBIs are considered mild (mTBI).
- Many mTBIs result from MVCs, but little is known or reported about the crash characteristics.
- The majority (about 80%) of mTBI improve within three months, while 20% have symptoms for more than six months that can include memory issues, depression, and cognitive difficulty (formulating thought and staying on task). Long-term, unresolved TBI is often referred to as “post-concussive syndrome.”
In one study, researchers followed car crash victims who were admitted into the hospital and found 37.7% were diagnosed with TBI, of which the majority (79%) were defined as minor by a tool called Maximum Abbreviated Injury Scale (MAIS) with a score of one or two (out of a possible six) for head injuries.
In contrast to more severe TBIs, mild TBIs occur more often in women, younger drivers, and those who were wearing seat-belts at the time of the crash. Mild TBI is also more prevalent in frontal vs. lateral (“T-bone”) crashes.
How Do You Know If You Have Mild Brain Injury?
As stated previously, we do not think about our brains being injured in a car crash as much as we do other areas of our body that may be injured – like the neck. In fact, most patients only talk about their pain, and their doctor of chiropractic has to specifically ask them about their brain-related symptoms.
An instrument called the Traumatic Brain Injury Questionnaire can be helpful as a screen and can be repeated to monitor improvement.
Techniques Used In Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosis
Advanced imaging has come a long way in helping show nerve damage associated with TBI such as DTI (diffuse tensor imaging), but it is not quite yet readily available.
Functional MRI (fMRI) and a type of PET scanning (FDG-PET) help as well, but brain profusion SPECT, which measures the blood flow within the brain and activity patterns at this time, seems the most sensitive.