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Traumatic brain injuries affect ability to make decisions

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

One of the many devastating outcomes possible in an accident is a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries are highly complex, and people who experience a blow to the head, whether in an auto collision, a fall or some other type of accident, often have symptoms that present themselves in unpredictable ways.

One common effect of a brain injury is the inability to make decisions, particularly immediately after the injury occurs. This can be especially harmful, considering the complex medical choices that need to be made as the victim is recovering. Usually the more severe the injury is, the more difficult it is to make decisions. These might include the choice of rehabilitation programming or what type of psychiatric treatment a patient needs, which could have an impact on the rest of his or her life.

Researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham have been studying these effects more closely to help TBI victims and their families make decisions about patient care. Using a group of 86 patients, the researchers divided the group according to injury severity: mild, complicated mild and moderate-severe. One month after injury, the patients' ability to make complex medical decisions was mostly intact for those with mild TBI, but still quite impaired for the more severely injured subjects. This was especially true when it came to the aspects of appreciation, reasoning and understanding in decision making.

The neurologists involved in the study say more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of moderate to severe TBI when it comes to decision making. But it's fairly clear that structural brain changes could have a significant impact on the choices a person makes after being involved in an accident.

Complicating matters is the reality that rehabilitation and other medical costs can add up quickly, and no one should have to make the choice to sacrifice quality of care due to a lack of funds. If the injury is the possible result of someone else's negligence, an accident victim would be well served by consulting with a personal injury attorney who can investigate the case and help make crucial legal decisions in the aftermath.

Source: ScienceDaily, "Head Injuries Often Impair Medical Decision-Making Skills," April 11, 2012

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