Identifying and Treating Traumatic Brain Injury in Children

According to Dr. Rolando Sanchez, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is relatively common in children because, “a child’s head is larger in proportion to his/her body than an adult’s. Therefore, children are more prone to injure their skull and/or brain.” TBI is the leading cause of death and disability in American children and adolescents.

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is defined as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, as well as a penetrating head injury. TBI can affect anyone at any time because it is typically caused by unforeseen accidents or injuries, however, TBI disproportionately affects children and infants.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of incidence for traumatic brain injury in children 0-4 is typically much higher than the rates for any other age group. Through the years 2001-2010, TBI occurred in children 0-4 with almost double the frequency as the next highest age group (15-24).

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Because children’s brains are still developing, traumatic brain injury can have more devastating long-term effects on their cognitive and social abilities. These impairments may not be immediately obvious, but as the child grows older he/she may face difficulty in learning or developing new, more complex cognitive and social functioning.

The symptoms of TBI can be broken into three categories: physical impairments, cognitive impairments, and emotional impairments.

Physical Impairments

  • Speech
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Headaches
  • Motor coordination
  • Paralysis
  • Balance
  • Seizure disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Spasticity of muscles

Cognitive Impairments

  • Short term memory loss
  • Concentration
  • Slow thinking
  • Attention span
  • Perception
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Judgment

Emotional Impairments

  • Mood Swings
  • Denial
  • Self-centeredness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty controlling emotions


Physicians or other medical professionals may use these impairments to determine whether or not a person has undergone a traumatic brain injury. However, a patient may not display all of these symptoms, and they may display them to different degrees. The symptoms can vary greatly depending on what area of the brain was injured.

Acute symptoms of a concussion include vomiting, headaches, restlessness, irritability, excessive crying or inability to be consoled.

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

Patients who undergo a traumatic brain injury often have to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. They also may have a CT scan taken of their brain, so the physician can access the extent and location of the injury.

Computerized Tomography (CT) scans are non-invasive radiological imaging tests that use a combination of x-rays and computer imaging software to create cross-sectional images of soft tissue in the body. These scans can provide more detailed images than a traditional x-ray.

Immediately after a traumatic brain injury, physicians will often attempt to stabilize the patient and maintain blood pressure, fluid, and glucose levels. Physicians will also try to limit or minimize swelling in the brain, and sometimes this requires medication or surgery. Surgeries may be used to remove blood clots, repair skull fractures, or relieve cranial pressure.

In the long-term, patients may need to undergo physical or cognitive rehabilitation. Patients may also need to be put on medications to help treat and manage long-term symptoms, such as anxiety or seizures. In some incidences, patients may need to see psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, or speech/language pathologists to help treat brain injury.

It is crucial that to get your child immediate treatment if you believe they may have a TBI. An MRI can assist your physician in detecting traumatic brain injury in your child. If your child is in need of an MRI, Northeast Nebraska Imaging provides patients a quality scan in a stress-free setting. You can request an appointment online today!