Can A New Blood Test Diagnose TBI In The Field?

A study published by Dr. Linda Papa of Orlando, Florida, on November 10, 2011 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that patients with TBI had a significantly higher amount of an acidic protein in their blood than those without TBI. The protein at issue is called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). Dr. Papa said the test, which must be done within four hours after the injury, may be used someday in the field to diagnose TBI in wounded soldiers. She also said the test could help determine which patients with head trauma need or don’t need a head CT scan at a hospital.

The Concussion Crisis

Science writers Linda Carroll and David Rosner have just published an important book called “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” to dispel the myth that a concussion is not really serious and does not involve actual damage to the human brain that can produce long term symptoms with subjective misery and (in some cases) objective disability from employment.

Writing Poetry to Improve Cognitive, Languistic and Emotional Functioning

Librarian Angela Hunt of Carver, MN tripped and struck her face on the sidewalk en route to work causing a TBI with loss of consciousness for about 20 minutes. When she attempted to return to work she had difficulty speaking, was unable to use a computer and no longer recognized long term library patrons. Hunt helped rehab herself by writing poetry. She found that the physical act of writing helped her brain make connections with language. Writing poetry helped her recover language skills and vocabulary.

It was also an outlet for expression and integral to regaining her emotional equilibrium. Hunt has published a book for TBI survivors titled “Am I Still Me? A Group of Words with Fundamental Questions for Those Struggling to Recover Themselves.”

What is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

Although there is no one definition of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) agreed upon by all physicians, here is a good one from Neil N. Jasey, M.D., director of brain injury rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey:
“A brain injury occurs when a blow or jolt to the head or body disrupts normal brain function, typically causing a change in mental status or consciousness. While radiographic evidence of a brain injury may not be apparent, long-lasting cognitive and behavioral effects can result.” Dr. Jasey cautions that: “Unlike physical injuries, such as a sprain or broken bone, the signs of a [mild] brain injury may not present themselves immediately. Initial symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, headache, nausea and extreme fatigue.

Over time, other symptoms, including irritability, difficulty with memory or concentration, and even depression, may appear along with impaired judgment, behavioral issues and personality changes.” Remember that MTBI is substantially equivalent to a concussion, that it does not require coma or any complete loss of consciousness (however brief), and that it can be caused by whiplash alone with blunt head trauma.

Odd Ambien Side Effects

The medication Ambien (Zolpidem) is a non-benzodiazepam agent for relieving anxiety and helping people with insomnia get to sleep. It is often prescribed for people with TBI who suffer from insomnia. Jui-Hsiu Tsaia, a  psychiatrist at Kaohsiung Municipal Hsiao-Kang Hospital in Taiwan, and his colleagues, heard that Ambien can cause sleep-walking and amnesia during sleep-related behaviors. They assembled a group of approximately 250 Taiwanese patients and found that 5% of them showed this odd side effect when taking Ambien for insomnia. If your loved one shows these behaviors on Ambien let his or her doctor know so an informed decision can be made as to whether to continue or discontinue the medication.