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April 8th, 2016

Suspect a brain injury? Follow these 6 tips for the best care

By Elaine Schmidt

Severe bumps to the head can happen during sports practice, kids’ play dates and even household accidents. Knowing when to seek care for head injuries can mean the difference between a full recovery and a lifelong disability or death.

Dr. Paul Vespa, director of UCLA Health’s neurocritical care program, offers six tips to ensure the best care if you or a family member suffers what’s called a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

  1. Know the warning signs. Symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness or a lapse in consciousness may indicate bleeding in the brain that can turn deadly quickly. Consider these red flags to get the injured person to the hospital immediately.
  2. Timing counts. Swift surgery or other medical intervention can prevent death and permanent brain damage from a TBI.
  3. Choose the right hospital. Not every medical center offers the trained specialists and advanced equipment required to treat TBIs effectively. Make sure your loved one is treated at a hospital with a neuro-intensive care unit on site.
  4. Insist on a specialist. Demand that your loved one be evaluated and treated by a physician who has undergone extra training to specialize in brain trauma. This is not the time for a general neurologist.
  5. Understand the rules. Ask whether the medical team follows the American Academy of Neurology guidelines for treating concussion and TBI. These guidelines improve patient outcomes and increase the likelihood of a successful recovery.
  6. Don’t forget rehabilitation. Patients recovering from a TBI often need physical therapy and cognitive rehab to relearn how to swallow, speak, walk, dress themselves and process information. Concussion patients also require careful monitoring and specialized treatment to enable the brain to heal and fully recover.

Each year, 2.4 million Americans suffer a blow to the head that results in a TBI. Tens of thousands of these people die each year, and more than 5.3 million Americans live with a permanent disability due to the lack of rapid or proper treatment.

Learn more about UCLA Health’s neurocritical care program and review its guide for family members of TBI patients, or read about our experts’ work at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center and UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program to prevent, treat and research concussions.

Tags: Children’s Health, concussion, Dr. Paul Vespa, neurocritical care, neurology, rehabilitation, TBI, traumatic brain injury, UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program

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