The Human and Financial Costs of Traumatic Brain Injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a contributing factor in 30% of all injury-related deaths. In Ohio alone, TBIs accounted for more than 2,100 deaths, 7,800 hospitalizations, and 92,000 emergency room visits between 2000 and 2010. The rates of fatal TBIs did not change over time, while ER visits increased 78% over a decade, according to Ohio Department of Health statistics.

Survivors often suffer severe physical and emotional impairment, but also face the staggering financial costs of traumatic brain injury. TBI is the result of a direct blow to the head that is hard enough to damage the brain or cause it to move within the skull. It is a closed-head injury, where an object has not penetrated the skull and entered the brain but the injury itself can affect tissues throughout multiple areas of the brain.

Both falls and auto accidents are leading causes of TBI, but motor vehicle crashes result in the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths nationwide. There has been quite a lot of attention in recent years to the part played by contact sports like boxing and football in permanent brain injuries, but people who are age 60 and over have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death of any age group.

This post will discuss the statistics surrounding traumatic brain injury, how the injury is classified by severity, treatment stages for TBI, and how much a TBI will essentially cost you.

Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

Brain injuries are more likely than any other type of injury to result in death or permanent disability. Victims can suffer coma, amnesia, memory loss, attention deficit, mobility problems, speech issues, cognitive disabilities, vision issues, seizures, and emotional problems, such as depression and personality changes. Traumas range from the mild to the extremely severe.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Approximately 2.5 million people suffer traumatic brain injury in the United States each year, and over 50,000 people die from it.
  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans are living today with a disability related to traumatic brain injury.
  • For those who have to be hospitalized, 43% have a related disability a year after the injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those who show recovery the quickest have the best prognosis for complete recovery.

In order to understand prognosis and likely costs of a traumatic brain injury, it is helpful to look at how the injury is classified for severity. There are various systems.

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) measures comas and diminishment of consciousness. Low scores signify more severe conditions. So a score of 3 to 8 signifies a severe traumatic brain injury, while a score of 13 to 15 is mild. There are other classification systems, such as the Trauma Score, the Abbreviated Trauma Score and the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS).

How are TBIs treated?

Ongoing treatment, though extremely expensive, can help people recover and get back to work. The goal of rehabilitation therapy for traumatic brain injury is to minimize disabilities and enable patients to live as independently as possible. Those who do not get proper treatment, and even many who do, often never recover.

Treatment is in stages, though those with milder cases may not need all three stages.

Acute Care

Acute care is the care the patient receives right after the injury when they may be rushed to the hospital. This could include surgically relieving intracranial pressure and medications to prevent seizures.

Subacute Care

Subacute care is the treatment the patient receives after they are stabilized. A patient may stay in a dedicated subacute treatment center or a designated area of some hospitals.

Length of stay varies tremendously, and those with very mild cases of TBI may never receive subacute care. Therapies are focused on helping patients live as independently as possible. Doctors and therapists work with the patient to regain their physical functions, and specialists may also be called in to help the patient deal with mental and emotional trauma.

Chronic Care and Long-Term Rehabilitation

Chronic care or long-term rehabilitation may be the final step for those who cannot fully recover. Treatment varies considerably depending on the extent of the injury. For some, chronic care simply means regular doctor office visits while they live a mostly normal life. But the severely injured may spend years — or the rest of their lives — in a long-term care facility as their treatments continue.

What is the cost of a traumatic brain injury?

Suffering an injury to the brain is the stuff of nightmares, but on top of dealing with the injury itself, many victims and their families struggle with the financial costs of a traumatic brain injury. The price of treatment itself can be astronomical. Beyond that, many victims cannot work for an extended time, and some are never able to rejoin the workforce.

As medical expenses skyrocket and income stops or decreases significantly, families of TBI patients can very quickly find themselves in deep financial difficulties. Unemployment rates following brain injury are heartrending. Two years after diagnosis, the unemployment rate was 60% for the average adult with brain injury at the time of a recent analysis. As a point of comparison, the average national unemployment average was 5.1% during the same time period.

It is eye-opening that up to 53% of homeless people are estimated to have a brain injury.

While potential lifetime costs of a TBI vary per person — an estimated $85,000 to $3 million depending on the severity of the injury — it’s important to think about the emotional cost, too. And that goes for all family members involved.

How do I get help if I have a traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury can have tremendous financial costs. If you have suffered a brain injury, you may have medical expenses for years to come. The difference between getting the help you need to live a comfortable life and losing everything can be your legal representation. If you have suffered a brain injury, contact our office to discuss how we can help you get the most from your insurance and government benefits, plus receive the compensation you are entitled to for current and future expenses.

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