Definition and Classifications
The CDC defines a traumatic brain injury as “a disruption of normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” A traumatic brain injury is considered a type of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) which is “an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative, and one that has occurred after birth.” There are 3 broad classifications of TBI: mild, moderate, and severe, with such designations roughly matching the symptom severity associated with each. Even a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), however, can be significant and produce life-long challenges.
When brain damage occurs before birth, it is referred to as an InBorn brain injury which can include brain damage caused by decreased oxygen (hypoxia) during delivery and/or decreased blood flow (ischemia) to a baby’s brain. These events are often associated with medical error and can cause hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy (CP). We see this, for example, when a baby in utero (in the uterus) is in fetal distress from a lack of blood oxygen caused by umbilical cord compression or abnormal fetal presentation. The only way to stop fetal distress is to deliver the baby requiring, at times, an emergency C-section which, if delayed, can result in profound brain damage to the newborn.