Brain Injury Sufferers Dealing With Memory Loss
Sufferers of traumatic brain injury (TBI)> can have many symptoms after a tragic accident. One of the most common symptoms is memory loss, also known as amnesia. Memory loss and amnesia can occur in individuals with the mildest of head injuries as well as those with extremely severe brain injuries.
Temporary Memory Loss and TBI
Some traumatic brain injury-related amnesia is temporary; those suffering from this are, on average, not able to remember the incident as well as what occurred directly before and after. This is often caused by edema, or a swelling of the brain in response to the damage it sustained. Because the brain is pressed against the skull, parts that were not injured are still not able to work.
Often, the victim's memory will return slowly as the brain's swelling decreases. This can occur over a few weeks or even take as much as several years. Memory loss, specifically temporary memory loss, can be just an emotional side affect of the TBI, which is usually stress related caused by the trauma of the injury.
Other, less common, types of memory loss stemming from traumatic brain injury are fixed. These result from damage to the nerves and axons (connections between nerves) of the brain itself. Because the brain cannot heal itself like an arm or a leg, any function that is damaged during a TBI is permanently impaired unless the brain can learn to perform that function differently.
Fixed amnesia may include inability to remember events before the injury, or loss of memory of the meanings of certain things, such as words or smells or objects. Less commonly, a person may not remember skills he or she had before the TBI.
Brain Damage and Anteretrograde Amnesia
A patient with TBI may also develop anteretrograde amnesia - an inability to form memories of events that happened after the injury. The reason for this is not well understood, but an October 2006 study by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that TBIs reduce the levels of a protein in the brain that helps it balance its activity. Without enough of that protein, the brain can 'overload,' the researchers said, interfering with memory formation, particularly the ability to learn new things.
Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients with Amnesia
There is no treatment for memory loss caused by a traumatic brain injury; memory loss can take a long time to return and in some cases, if it does not return, can be lost entirely. However, a September 2006 study published in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed promising results in TBI patients with anteretrograde memory loss who took the drug rivastigmine.
The drug, which is sold to Alzheimer's disease patients under the brand name Exelon, helped patients with moderate to severe memory loss score better on memory tests than another group of patients that took placebos. The results were not as good for patients who had only mild memory loss. Victims of traumatic brain injury memory loss would be advised to seek out a law firm specializing in traumatic brain injuries in order to receive the best possible outcome, which may include a lawsuit to regain compensation for lost medical costs.
About the author:
Peter Kent is the best-selling author of 50 books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.