Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

brain injury

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared March “Brain Injury Awareness Month.” 

Chamberlain Visiting Professor Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, is a correctional nurse and the author of Essentials of Correctional Nursing. She shares information about traumatic brain injuries below, including tips for recognizing the signs and symptoms of a brain injury in the inmate population.

While an estimated 2% of the general population has sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with continuing disability, the prevalence in the inmate population is estimated at more than 60%. As a correctional nurse, it is particularly critical to be well-versed in the signs and symptoms of the condition.

Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by assault, falls, motor vehicle crashes and military duty blasts. Patients who have been victims of physical abuse or part of a violent lifestyle are prone to this condition.

The long-term effects of TBI include memory problems, an inability to focus and poor impulse control. Patients with this condition may respond in anger, aggression or verbal disrespect to cover for their deficits. Other signs of TBI among the inmate patient population include:

  • Outbursts of anger or irritation
  • Increased behavioral infractions
  • Forgetfulness about rules of prohibited conduct, restricted areas, and where they should be and by when
  • Memory deficits
  • Pain and headache
  • Difficulty concentrating

TBI can lead to depression, anxiety, anger issues and substance abuse. It can also predispose one to seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

TBI treatment focuses on symptom management and compensation for cognitive deficits. A careful intake history is an important first step to diagnosing TBI and managing symptoms.

A version of this post originally appeared on Lorry Schoenly’s blog, Listen to a podcast, Tips for Dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury with Schoenly and Barbara Curtis, MSN, RN, Director of Nursing Service, Washington State Department of Corrections. 

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