Medical Minute: Traumatic Brain Injury

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MINOT, N.D. - A traumatic brain Injury is an injury to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

Deaths from traumatic brain injury are down now that people are recognizing the signs and symptoms and getting treated earlier.

According to the CDC, more than 40 percent of traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls. Eighty-one percent of TBIs in adults aged 65 and older are caused by falls.

"We'll often refer to people who have had a brain injury as the walking wounded because they'll look perfectly fine, but the way they process information or the way they deal with the world has been altered," Trinity Rehabilitation Unit Medical Director Dr. Shelley Killen said.

Symptoms can include: headaches, confusion and sometimes irritability and memory loss. If the injury isn't obvious, sometimes watching for these behaviors can be key to diagnosis.

"This particular gentleman had five children at home, so I asked him 'do your children get on your nerves more than usual?' He said, 'oh do they ever.' Every little noise drives me crazy. So I started probing a little more and he had no recollection of how he had gotten hurt," Killen said.

All brains respond differently and how you recover could have a lot to do with your age.

"Young brains are often referred to as very plastic. I think young brains actually truly do recover. They still have neuro pathways that will just rework themselves. As we get older our brains don't quite do that and in those cases our brains find ways to work around things," Killen said.

During rehab and recovery, the brain is working to heal and that can often be frustrating for friends and family who are also learning how to deal with the new way their loved one reacts to situations.

"Someone who has this type of injury, they need their support for recovery, but it's important for them to know that someone is recovering. And when someone has had a bad injury, and they're recovering everybody wants to come see them, everyone wants to celebrate that their getting better, and sometimes that's just way too much," Killen said.

There are some local resources for the family and friends of anyone with a traumatic brain injury: The Head Injury Association of North Dakota at and the North Dakota Brain Injury Network at