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Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury on Balance

Nov 5, 2007
Traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is caused by trauma to the head, can impact many of the body's normal functions, including its ability to maintain balance. Balance disorders (also known as balance dysfunctions or balance impairments) are common following brain injury. Compared to other conditions that also result in balance disorders (such as strokes), relatively few studies have been done regarding the effects of TBI on balance. Fortunately, this is changing.

Symptoms of Balance Disorders

Balance disorders occur, at least temporarily, in nearly all people who have suffered a TBI. This instability can exist even when neurological tests do not detect any problems.

Common symptoms of balance dysfunctions include:

* Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, woozy or a sensation of spinning (vertigo)

* Burred vision

* Falling or unsteady gait (feeling of falling)

Diagnosing Balance Disorders

Maintaining balance is a complex multifunctional process that involves interplay between three systems:

* Vestibular system (the inner ear balance organs)

* Visual system (eyes)

* Somatosenory system (joint and muscle receptors or sensors)

Normally, the brain receives and processes information about the environment and these systems work together to control balance. The Sensory Organization Test (SOT) is the primary test that assesses balance impairment by evaluating each of the three balance systems. Balance Impairment and Severity of Traumatic Brain Injury

The severity of TBI is determined using several measures such as:

* Glasgow Coma Test

* Length of unconsciousness (time in a coma)

* Length of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA)

For TBI patients beginning rehabilitation, there is a significant relationship between TBI severity and degree of sitting and standing balance impairment. Patients with more severe TBI ratings also have more impaired balance ratings.

Recovery from Balance Disorders Caused by Traumatic Brain Injury

A study at Wayne State University found that the degree of balance impairment for brain-damaged patients (specifically sitting balance impairment), measured at time of admission to rehabilitation can predict the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) at discharge. FIM measures the degree to which recovering patients can live independently after discharge. This study underscores the relationship between brain injury severity, balance impairment, and the prognosis for TBI recovery.

For cases of mild traumatic brain injury in which there was no loss of consciousness and no clinically detectable problems, balance impairments (as measured by performance on the Sensory Organization Test), usually last from 3 to 10 days. However, subtle balance impairments that are harder to detect, such as abnormally high reliance on vision for maintaining balance, can persist for months or years.

Individual treatment plans for balance disorders may include balance retraining exercises, general exercise, and certain drugs. Recovery takes time and recovery times vary. Some brain-injured people require assistance for years. If you have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, you may wish to contact an experienced TBI attorney to help you assess your claim and gain compensation for your medical expenses, future medical care, and the pain and suffering that brain damage and brain injury can cause.
About the Author
LegalView.com is your source for everything legal on the web. Visit us at http://legalview.com for access to a complete legal database, including our free attorney referral service. Visitors to LegalView.com will be able to browse a collection of resources including help to find a brain injury lawyer or a mesothelioma attorney, and more.
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