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What is traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury is brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head, such as in a sports injury or car crash.

Our approach

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Northwell Health Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery provides expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries caused by sudden brain trauma. Our expert team of neurosurgeons and neurologists is available 24/7 to offer the latest diagnostic technology and treatment options for patients with traumatic brain injuries.


Traumatic brain injury symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the extent and cause of the brain damage.

With a mild traumatic brain injury, there may or may not have been a lack of consciousness. Other symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Blurred vision or tired eyes
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Behavioral or mood changes

In more severe traumatic brain injuries, there can also be a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Headache that gets worse or doesn’t go away
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eye
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion, restlessness or agitation

Other symptoms include:

  • Leaking spinal fluid from the nose or ears
  • Respiratory failure
  • Coma
  • Paralysis or poor coordination
  • Slow pulse
  • Decreased breathing rate
  • Difficulty “thinking straight,” memory problems, poor judgment, reduced speed of thought processing
  • Inappropriate emotional reactions, including irritability, feeling frustrated easily, crying or laughing unsuitably
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

It’s important to contact a physician immediately if a traumatic brain injury is suspected.

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