Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

LeBlanc: Traumatic brain injuries a 'silent epidemic'


Each year an estimated 2 million Americans suffer some form of traumatic brain injury, which averages out to about one every 15 seconds. About 5.3 million Americans are living with disabilities that have resulted from a brain injury.

Almost a year ago, I received one myself. When a culprit attempted to rob my bookstore, I resisted. The perpetrator then decided it would be a good idea to slam a pipe down upon my head, cracking my skull as I threw him out the front doors.

I found myself in a dense fog for more than three months and still believe I am experiencing repercussions from which I might never fully recover. I truly got a first hand look at some of the symptoms my father dealt with while suffering from Alzheimer's.

I couldn't write for an entire month. Also, I found myself walking into rooms and being unable to remember why I was there! Fortunately for me, most of my symptoms have cleared up.

I recently got a phone call from a woman who prompted me to write this article. As she began to tell me that she had been a life-long athlete, with all the media attention lately given to head injuries, I thought for sure that this was where she was going. However, it turned out she had fallen from a chair and hit the back of her head severely. She soon found herself suffering from multiple symptoms such as: migraine-like headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, and even some dementia. She spent two years and 11 days endlessly searching for help before she finally was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

Not long ago I interviewed Kenneth Fisher, a "neuropsychologist." He explained why traumatic brain injuries are called the "silent epidemic." He then described how many times the injuries are to the myelin covering of microscopic brain cells that cannot be detected by medical scans; even the patient's EEG might be normal.

These damaged cells may disrupt the biochemical function of the brain, not only causing symptoms of dementia but loss of emotional control. This might leave the patient crying for no reason or going through bouts of agitation, leading then to be commonly misdiagnosed with depression or of being bipolar. Traditional cognitive tests may prove inadequate for this type of brain assessment. Instead, a battery of empirically derived sensitive tests must be ordered.

Fisher suggested that the "Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Battery" be performed. This test goes into much greater detail, testing a number of sensory and motor task skills along with the cognitive abilities. The test grades four methods of inference:

? Levels of skilled performance

? Right-left comparison

? Pathognomonic signs

? Patterns analysis

Our brains have more difficulty healing than any other organ. Take it from someone who has been through traumatic brain injury. We never should take these injuries lightly. Get checked out right away. Sometimes it is the invisible damage that we have to worry about most.


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