Traumatic brain injury (TBI, also called intracranial injury) occurs when an outside force traumatically injures the brain. TBI can be classified based on severity, mechanism (closed or penetrating head injury), or other features (e.g. occurring in a specific location or over a widespread area). Head injury usually refers to TBI, but is a broader category because it can involve damage to structures other than the brain, such as the scalp and skull.
TBI is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults. Causes include falls, vehicle accidents, and violence. Prevention measures include use of technology to protect those who are in accidents, such as seat belts and sports or motorcycle helmets, as well as efforts to reduce the number of accidents, such as safety education programs and enforcement of traffic laws.
Brain trauma can be caused by a direct impact or by acceleration alone. In addition to the damage caused at the moment of injury, brain trauma causes secondary injury, a variety of events that take place in the minutes and days following the injury. These processes, which include alterations in cerebral blood flow and the pressure within the skull, contribute substantially to the damage from the initial injury.
TBI can cause a host of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects, and outcome can range from complete recovery to permanent disability or death. The 20th century has seen critical developments in diagnosis and treatment which have decreased death rates and improved outcome. These include imaging techniques such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Depending on the injury, treatment required may be minimal or may include interventions such as medications and emergency surgery. Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy may be employed for rehabilitation.