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Identifying and treating traumatic brain injuries in children

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Brain injuries in adult patients often can be difficult to identify, diagnose and treat. Cases of brain injury involving children can be even harder to determine. Whether in Virginia or elsewhere in the country, such injuries can permanently disable or even kill a patient. Knowing what to look for in a child can help determine whether treatment for a traumatic brain injury is needed.

A TBI can result from any number of events, such as falls, sports injuries, car accidents and other accidents in which the skull comes into contact with an outside object through sudden force. TBI symptoms are primarily the same in children as in adults and may include headaches, excessive weakness, unusual fatigue, seizures, paralysis, impaired speech, loss of balance and impaired cognitive function. Other diagnostic symptoms include memory loss, impaired reasoning, trouble making decisions, slower thinking, problems reading or writing, agitation, emotional instability, impulsiveness and lack of initiative.

When a child who is less than five years of age has suffered brain trauma, treatment for a brain injury is more critical than for an adult. This is because a child's brain is developing rapidly until the age of five. Brain development continues for several more years, but at a much slower pace.

If a brain injury goes unidentified in a child in the days or weeks after it has occurred, its effects might not be clear for many years. Eventually, the damage could be revealed in the form of lack of attention in a classroom setting, attention deficiencies, behavioral problems, lack of concentration, inability to remember oft-repeated information, reduced tolerance for frustration, reduced endurance and similar problems.

Successfully treating children with traumatic brain injuries starts with identifying symptoms. Treatment must be coupled with positive encouragement and rehabilitation in a positive environment with the assistance of health care workers and the involvement of family members.

Source: Brain Injury Association of Virginia, "Brain Injury in Children," accessed Dec.5, 2014

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