Traumatic Brain Injury Effects Years Later

tbi years later

The debate still goes on about traumatic brain injury effects years later and it is for good cause. The long term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) have some medical professionals confused. A head injury that is either moderate or severe TBI can have immediate symptoms or the TBI symptoms may not show it is a severe traumatic brain injury.

If the initial injury is a closed head injury and does not appear to be a severe brain injury then often the urgency to get care for what may seem like mild concussions or not even a brain trauma at all.

For instance, in motor vehicle accidents that do not have severe injuries, or even it appears there is no injured person, you could have a mild traumatic brain injury from that car accident because physical symptoms may be covered up by adrenaline from the car accident.

So the evidence of physical symptoms is not always the best indicator of injury severity. Your brain injury may be covered up by brain regions designed to allow you to function in a crisis.

A Severe Head Injury Is Often Called A Treat Traumatic Brain Injury

The medical community’s optimism regarding severe traumatic brain injury the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is derived in part from the growing number of studies showing that untreated TBI can cause cognitive decline, a condition known as “cognitive decline and dementia,” or CTE.

But this just may be premature, according to a new study led by a team of scientists at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The researchers found that MRI scans of the brains and cognitive function of individuals with TBI more than two decades after they were injured show very little evidence that in fact, cognitive decline occurred.

“Currently, there is no clear consensus on what exactly happened to these individuals during their time in hospitals after being injured; however, there is general agreement that traumatic brain injury has an effect on brain structure and function..”

Traumatic Brain Injuries Ability To Recover Is Not In Question

The study was undertaken with the goal to determine whether or not it is possible for patients with TBI to recover their cognitive abilities and if so, how long it might take for them to reach their full potential.

Currently, there is no clear consensus on what exactly happened to these individuals during their time in hospitals after being injured; however, there is general agreement that traumatic brain injury has an effect on brain structure and function.

The NIA team decided to see if initial signs of cognitive decline could be detected using MRI scans from patients who had received care at one of five major trauma centers in Washington state between 1986 and 2015.

TBI Kids Tx

MRI Scans Of Traumatic Brain Injury Patients Leave Questions Unanswered

Five hundred MRI scans were taken from each subject, which included both adult patients and children under age 18 who had been injured at some point between 1986 and 2015.

The findings: The majority (83 percent) of subjects showed only mild levels of mental impairment, while 15 percent showed moderate impairment followed by 12 percent showing no impairment at all.

Indication of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

None showed severe mental impairment overall. In addition, they found that two-thirds were able to remember what they did immediately before falling down; less than half could recall where they were when they fell; most couldn’t remember how long ago it was since they fell down; nearly half couldn’t recall where they were when they fainted; about half could not remember their names; and about six-in-ten couldn’t recall their birthday – all indicative signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Head Injury For Women Different Than For Men?

The researchers also found significant differences by gender – both men and women are affected equally – although men appeared slightly more likely than women to have memory problems involving how long ago something happened.


Can Head Trauma Cause Problems Years Later?

In a world of TBI, many people have no idea what it’s like to have suffered a TBI. Years later, the brain can still be injured, and that can affect us long after we’ve left the hospital. The brain is plastic, so if you hit it in a way that it wasn’t intended to be hit, your brain may not remember it as such.

The same goes for your head trauma. If you experience a head injury because you hit your head in a way that wasn’t intended for it (you were driving or hiking), but you don’t remember what happened because of how the brain heals itself, then your symptoms will likely not match up with the test results.

Your brain injuries symptoms may even lighten up and become less severe brain injuries over time.

But How Does This Relate To Modern Day TBI Patients?

The answer depends on who you ask:

Doctors & scientists – because studies suggest that treatments can help with symptoms years later
Patients – because they know a lot more about their brains than doctors do.

If you are a doctor or scientist reading this article and think that the findings in the above paragraph are applicable to patients suffering from TBI (or at least strongly suspect them to be applicable) then there are questions regarding traumatic brain injuries that need answers.

Moderate or Severe TBI Is Determined By Medical Professionals Based On TBI Symptoms.

A risk factor in the healing process could be something as innocent sounding as sleep disturbances or muscle stiffness. Cognitive problems and someone who lost consciousness are much easier to notice. But temporal lobes neuronal connections or nerve damage may show up as long-term symptoms and may not show in a ct scan.

TBI symptoms, such as: 

  • memory problems 
  • loss of another normal function
  • decreased ability to have impulse control 
  • unusual social isolation
  • double vision 

Any one of these or any combination of these symptoms could be moderate or severe TBI and that person would benefit from TBI rehabilitation.

Post-concussion syndrome diagnosed by medical experts noticing physical symptoms.

Significant impact is a leading cause of skull fractures. The symptoms of a severe stroke and post concussion syndrome can vary just like moderate or severe TBIs. Moderate or severe TBI may have light sensitivity or they may not have any light sensitivity at all.

Damage to the temporal lobe may have permanent physical consequences. Patient care and TBI treatment should take into consideration the increased risk of the severe TBIs symptoms over that of a moderate TBI symptom. 

The light sensitivity could be in common, but if the brain injury severity leads a patient to lose consciousness, then medical experts all agree on the challenge to regain control of mental health, and physical motor skills are going to be more challenging than a moderate TBI.

TBI long term effects

What are the long-term effects of Moderate To Severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury?)

In the last few years, widespread interest in traumatic brain injury (TBI) has accelerated. However, there is still little research on the long-term effects. This discussion paper was commissioned by the Brain Injury Research Foundation (B.I.R.F.) and seeks to address this gap in knowledge through an overview of TBI, a review of relevant literature, and an assessment of current scientific knowledge.

This section summarises some of the key points from the paper:•• Needs for further research: The need for more studies into particular aspects of TBI is clear, but current studies into these areas have been limited.

To date, there is only one study that has examined levels of cognitive recovery in individuals after TBI.

There are also no studies examining levels of emotional and behavioral competence or social integration after TBI, despite ongoing concerns about people with learning disabilities being unfairly targeted in the criminal justice system.

Why does learning not happen?

The idea that learning doesn’t happen is widely held, but this argument needs further evidence to support it (e.g., with regard to behavioral and cognitive deficits). This argument also relates to whether these deficits are permanent or temporary.

If they are temporary then they will subside with time but if they are permanent then they will persist until a patient can relearn how to perform basic tasks, which may result in a decrease in life expectancy.

Factors influencing recovery

It is unclear what factors make people recover faster or slower than others. Recovery may also be affected by genetic factors (e.g., cerebral palsy), physical factors (e.g., spinal cord injury), psychological factors (e.g., personality disorders), social factors (e.g., family backgrounds), medical conditions (e.g., HIV) or a combination of these.

There are a number of factors that may all contribute to determining recovery rates.

brain frontal lobe
  • Advancement and Improved therapies

    Some treatments for TBI have been shown to be effective; however, further research into individual treatment approaches and the effects they have on recovery rates is needed.

    Using newer interventions that can be used as part of standard care such as rehabilitative therapy, neuropsychological testing, and neuroimaging techniques such as MRI, single-photon emission computed tomography, diffusion tensor imaging, or magnetoencephalography.

    Studies investigating neuroplasticity may help clinicians identify which treatments work best for individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injury.

    Possible future interventions are vast because of the proven brain neuroplasticity

Brain Injury Rehab

Do traumatic brain injuries get worse over time?

People with Alzheimer’s disease experience memory loss and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition is known for its similarity to other forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

If a person has Alzheimer’s and has suffered a concussion then he or she may develop symptoms similar to those of an Alzheimer patient or vascular patient.

About 20% of people who have suffered a head trauma that is diagnosed as traumatic brain injury may develop cognitive impairment with no prior symptoms.

This could be due to age-related declines in mental functions such as memory loss and confusion, which can be corrected with treatments such as neuroplasticity therapy.

People who have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, on the other hand, may suffer from only minor symptoms that typically resolve within a few months or years after the injury.

There are a number of brain injuries that don’t necessarily result from head trauma including but not limited to:

  • Extreme heat
  • High humidity
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Exhaustion
  • Malnutrition


concussion brain injury

Some people believe that it takes up to 30 years before they can fully recover from a concussion.

Gradual recovery is why some studies show that over 80% of people with mild TBI have no problems getting work done after they have recovered from their concussion.

However, research suggests that more than half of people with mild head trauma do not return to work after their initial recovery period.

Studies have shown that up until 50–70%, of people who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries will suffer cognitive impairment even following their initial recovery period (i.e., some patients may also experience cognitive impairment at later stages).

Studies show that individuals can recover completely in about half of these cases — but 85% still suffer cognitive impairment at some point following their neurotoxic injury.

This means even when these individuals fully recover from their traumatic brain injury they still continue experiencing some level of cognitive deficits despite being

What happens to the symptoms of traumatic brain injury over time?

This is something every TBI patient thinks about. In the case of a mild TBI, the brain injury is treated and the symptoms are usually resolved in a few months (if not sooner).

In the case of moderate to severe TBI, like frontal lobe damage or multiple contusions, it can take years.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of disability and death. The symptoms of severe traumatic brain injury are just as horrific as those of major stroke. But after years of treatment and rehabilitation, people often find it is never completely cured.

What’s worse, many people who have suffered severe TBI will now be faced with a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been linked to sub-concussive hits to the head as well as CTE.

For decades doctors have been seeking answers to why some brain injuries don’t heal no matter how hard they try. Now we know that this process may take months, even years – and sometimes decades – after the initial trauma.

Some studies show that there may be different pathways that lead to a person’s recovery after severe TBI.

It’s too soon to know which pathway works best for each person but early research suggests that these pathways may work differently for some people than others.

This means that finding out if your condition is part of an underlying illness or part of an injury won’t be easy or straightforward, but there are ways researchers can help you find answers.

Studies can look at biomarkers on blood lipids, cerebrospinal fluid protein levels, and cerebrospinal fluid indices like myelin basic protein (MBP).

Biomarkers Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Research has shown that when these biomarkers are elevated in patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brains they may signal more prolonged recovery from injury and symptoms related to brain damage (increased levels can also occur in other disorders like Alzheimer’s disease).

Research can look at MRI scans before and after therapy for milder head injuries like concussion or polytrauma syndrome (a serious form of mild TBI).

Researchers have found increased myelin loss on MRI scans in patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy so this process may slow down or begin interfering with long-term recovery from concussion symptoms such as headaches and memory loss.

Research can look at functional outcomes such as functional capacity tests before and after therapy for milder head injuries like concussion or polytrauma.

childhood emotional trauma can cause brain damageca

Good News Regarding TBI and TBI Treatments

The good news for head injury patients is that the science and medical experts agree that the care today is light years ahead of where the care was even just 10 short years ago.

And the various technological advancements continue to show promise.

Even simple things like making your child wear a helmet while riding a bike could be considered an advancement because prevention is the best place to start.adv

About The Author

Tiffany Dyar

Tiffany Dyar is the former Executive Director for The Center for Health Innovation & Implementation Science, and the former Program Manager at Regenstrief Institute.Tiffany has co-authored several medical publications including The American Journal of Critical Care  Journal of General Internal Medicine Trials Journal  Best Practices in Mental Health  & The New England Journal of Medicine

Scroll to Top