What is brain trauma?

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – head injury and brain trauma are synonymous terms, meaning any brain injury produced by an external force.
  • Main causes – car crashes, falls, sports and assaults. This is different from stroke, infection, cancer or other processes that can produce brain “injuries.”

What are the severity levels of TBI?

  • Mild – Awake; eyes open. Also called a concussion. Symptoms can include confusion, memory, and attention difficulties, headache, and behavioral problems.
  • Moderate – Lethargic; eyes open to stimulation. Some brain swelling or bleeding causing sleepiness, but still arousable.
  • Severe – Coma; eyes do not open, even with stimulation. Associated with 20-50% death rate or severe disabilities. It is in this category that many lives can be saved by application of BTF’s TBI Guidelines.


Brain death: an irreversible cessation of measurable brain function.

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF): fluid that bathes and protects the brain and spinal cord.

Closed head injury: an injury that occurs when the head suddenly and violently hits an object but the object does not break through the skull.

Coma: state of profound unconsciousness caused by disease, injury, or poison.

Computed tomography (CT): a scan that creates a series of cross-sectional X-rays of the head and brain; also called computerized axial tomography or CAT scan.

Concussion: injury to the brain caused by a hard blow or violent shaking, causing a sudden and temporary impairment of brain function, such as a short loss of consciousness or disturbance of vision and equilibrium.

Contusion: distinct area of swollen brain tissue mixed with blood released from broken blood vessels.

Intracerebral hematoma: bleeding within the brain caused by damage to a major blood vessel.

Intracranial pressure: buildup of pressure in the brain as a result of injury.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): a noninvasive diagnostic technique that uses magnetic fields to detect subtle changes in brain tissue.

Neuron: a nerve cell that is one of the main functional cells of the brain and nervous system.

Penetrating head injury: a brain injury in which an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue.

Penetrating skull fracture: a brain injury in which an object pierces the skull and injures brain tissue.

Vasospasm: exaggerated, persistent contraction of the walls of a blood vessel.

Vegetative state: a condition in which patients are unconscious and unaware of their surroundings, but continue to have a sleep/wake cycle and have periods of alertness.

Ventriculostomy: a surgical procedure that drains cerebrospinal fluid from the brain by creating an opening in one of the small cavities called ventricle.