Potential Effects of a Moderate or Severe TBI
A moderate or severe TBI may result in an extended period of unconsciousness (coma) or amnesia. The effects of a moderate or severe TBI are different for each person and may change during recovery. Most people will have one or more health problems after the injury that may include:
- Physical symptoms
- Problems with thinking and learning, and
- Changes in motor skills, hearing, vision, emotions/mood, or behavior1
Symptoms of moderate or severe TBI
|Thinking and Learning||Motor Skills, Hearing, and Vision||Emotion/Mood||Behavior|
|Difficulty understanding and thinking clearly||Weakness in arms and legs||Feeling more emotional than usual||Trouble controlling behavior|
|Trouble communicating and learning skills||Problems with coordination and balance||Nervousness or anxiety||Personality changes|
|Problems concentrating||Problems with hearing and vision||Feeling more angry or aggressive than usual||More impulsive than usual|
|Difficulty remembering information||Changes in sensory perception, such as touch||Sadness, depression|
Even after surviving a moderate or severe TBI and receiving inpatient rehabilitation services, a person’s life expectancy is 9 years shorter. TBI increases the risk of dying from several causes. Compared to people without TBI, people with TBI are more likely to die from:
After inpatient rehabilitation for TBI, the following groups are more likely to die sooner:
- Older adults
- People who are not married
- People with fewer years of education
- People with more severe TBI
- People with fall-related TBI
In addition, people with moderate to severe TBI typically face a variety of chronic health problems. These issues add costs and burdens to people with TBI, their families, and society. Among those still alive 5 years after injury:
- 57% are moderately or severely disabled.
- 55% do not have a job (but were employed at the same time of their injury)
- 50% return to a hospital at least once
- 33% rely on others for help with everyday activities
- 29% are not satisfied with life
- 29% use illicit drugs or misuse alcohol
- 12% reside in nursing homes or other institutions
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on traumatic brain injury in the United States: Epidemiology and rehabilitationpdf icon. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2015.
- Corrigan JD, Cuthbert JP, Harrison-Felix C, et al. US population estimates of health and social outcomes 5 years after rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury. J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2014;29(6):E1-9.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health. Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury is a Lifelong Condition. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/Moderate_to_Severe_TBI_Lifelong-a.pdfpdf icon.
- Goldman SM, Kamel F, Ross GW, et al. Head injury, alpha-synuclein Rep1, and Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol 2012;71:40–8.