Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
Each year, TBIs contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. In fact, TBI is a contributing factor to a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States.1 On average, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually.1
A severe TBI not only impacts the life of an individual and their family, but it also has a large societal and economic toll. The estimated economic cost of TBI in 2010, including direct and indirect medical costs, is estimated to be approximately $76.5 billion. Additionally, the cost of fatal TBIs and TBIs requiring hospitalization, many of which are severe, account for approximately 90% of the total TBI medical costs. 2,3
Types of Severe TBIThere are two types of severe TBI, each described below by associated causes:
Closed – an injury to the brain caused by movement of the brain within the skull. Causes may include falls, motor vehicle crash, or being struck by or with an object.
Penetrating – an injury to the brain caused by a foreign object entering the skull. Causes may include firearm injuries or being struck with a sharp object.
Potential Affects of Severe TBI
A non-fatal severe TBI may result in an extended period of unconsciousness (coma) or amnesia after the injury. For individuals hospitalized after a TBI, almost half (43%) have a related disability one year after the injury.9 A TBI may lead to a wide range of short- or long-term issues affecting:
- Cognitive Function (e.g., attention and memory)
- Motor function (e.g., extremity weakness, impaired coordination and balance)
- Sensation (e.g., hearing, vision, impaired perception and touch)
- Emotion (e.g., depression, anxiety, aggression, impulse control, personality changes)
Approximately 5.3 million Americans are living with a TBI-related disability and the consequences of severe TBI can affect all aspects of an individual’s life.10 This can include relationships with family and friends, as well as their ability to work or be employed, do household tasks, drive, and/or participate in other activities of daily living.
Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes and traffic-related incidents result in the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths (31.8%).1
People aged 75 years old and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death.1
Meeting the Challenge of Severe TBI
While there is no one size fits all solution, there are interventions that can be effective to help limit the impact of this injury. These measures include primary prevention, early management, and treatment of severe TBI.
CDC’s research and programs work to reduce severe TBI and its consequences by developing and evaluating clinical guidelines, conducting surveillance, implementing primary prevention and education strategies, and developing evidence-based interventions to save lives and reduce morbidity from this injury.
Developing and Evaluating Clinical Guidelines
CDC researchers conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of adopting the Brain Trauma Foundation (BTF) in-hospital guidelines for the treatment of adults with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). This research indicated that widespread adoption of these guidelines could result in:
- a 50% decrease in deaths;
- a savings of approximately $288 million in medical and rehabilitation costs; and
- a savings of approximately $3.8 billion—the estimated lifelong savings in annual societal costs for severely injured TBI patients.12
CDC, in collaboration with 17 organizations, published the Field Triage Guidelines for the Injured Patient.13 These guidelines include criteria on severe head trauma and can help provide uniform standards to emergency medical service (EMS) providers and first responders, to ensure that patients with TBI are taken to hospitals that are best suited to address their particular injuries.
Data are critical to help inform TBI prevention strategies, identify research and education priorities, and support the need for services among those living with a TBI. CDC collects and reports both national and state-based TBI surveillance data:
- CDC presents data on the incidence of TBI nationwide in its report: Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, 2002-2006. This current report presents data on emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths for the years 2002 through 2006 and includes TBI numbers by age, gender, race, and external cause.
- CDC currently funds 30 states to conduct basic TBI surveillance through the CORE state Injury Program. (Note: While some un-funded states do participate in the submission of TBI- and other injury-related data compiled in this report, the report does not include data from all 50 states.)
Implementing primary prevention and education strategies
CDC has multiple education and awareness efforts to help improve primary prevention of severe TBI, as well as those that promote early identification and appropriate care.
- A-Head Check poster
- Motor vehicle safety
- Seat belts
- Child passenger safety
- Impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Teen drivers
- Pedestrian safety
- Falls reduction strategies
- Sports- and recreation safety
- Violence prevention
- Faul M, Xu L, Wald MM, Coronado VG. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2010.
- Finkelstein E, Corso P, Miller T and associates. The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York (NY): Oxford University Press; 2006.
- Coronado, McGuire, Faul, Sugerman, Pearson. The Epidemiology and Prevention of TBI (in press) 2012
- Teasdale, G, Jennett, B. Assessment of coma and impaired consciousness. A practical scale. Lancet 304(7872):81-84, 1974.
- Stein SC. Classification of head injury. In: Narayan, RK, Wilberger, Jr., JE, Povlishock, JT, eds. Neurotrauma. McGraw-Hill, 1996:31-41.
- Coronado, VG, Thurman, DJ, Greenspan, AI, et al. Epidemiology. In: Jallo, J, Loftus, C, eds. Neurotrauma and Critical Care of the Brain. New York, Stuttgart: Thieme, 2009.
- Levin, HS, Gary, HE, Eisenberg, HM, et al. Neurobehavioral outcome 1 year after severe head injury. Experience of the Traumatic Coma Data Bank. J Neurosurg 73(5):699-709, 1990.
- Williams, DH, Levin, HS, Eisenberg, HM. Mild head injury classification. Neurosurgery 27(3):422-428, 1990.
- Selassie AW, Zaloshnja E, Langlois JA, Miler T, Jones P, Steiner C. Incidence of Long-term disability following Traumatic Brain Injury Hospitalization, United States, 2003 J Head Trauma Rehabil 23(2):123-131,2008.
- Thurman D, Alverson C, Dunn K, Guerrero J, Sniezek J. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: a public health perspective. J Head Trauma Rehabil 1999;14(6):602-615.
- Champion HR, Holcomb JB, Young LA. Injuries from explosions. Journal of Trauma 2009;66(5):1468–1476.
- Faul M, Wald MM, Rutland-Brown W, Sullivent EE, Sattin RW. Using a cost-benefit analysis to estimate outcomes of a clinical treatment guideline: testing the Brain Trauma Foundation guidelines for the treatment of severe traumatic brain injury. J Trauma. 2007 Dec;63(6):1271-8.
- CDC. Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients: Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports Recommendations and Reports. January 23, 2009 / Vol. 58 / No. RR-1.