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The exorbitant cost of traumatic brain injury

As reported by the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital, people in Rhode Island and other states who suffer a traumatic brain injury face lifetime costs of between $15-20 million. It is not uncommon for severe TBI patients to incur over $1 million in costs during the first month or two after their injury just to keep them alive. This is before any rehabilitation begins.

The Mayo Clinic states that traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head, but a penetrating injury such as from a bullet, flying glass or a piece of shattered skull also can cause TBI. Even a “mild” TBI is serious and requires immediate emergency assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The longer the period of time between injury and treatment, the more devastating the consequences.

Traumatic brain injuries can result in a wide variety of physical and psychological problems. While some symptoms may appear immediately, others do not occur until days or weeks later. A relatively mild brain injury almost invariably causes headaches, sleep difficulties, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, mood swings, memory problems and depression. More severe brain injuries can result in slurred speech, profound confusion, convulsions, seizures, and even coma.

A traumatic brain injury often results in one or more chronic conditions that last a lifetime. The person may have permanent mental, psychological, behavioral, motor and/or speech disabilities that require long-term rehabilitation and care. In addition, they may be virtually unemployable and therefore unable to contribute to their own support. Their potential for personal independence may be severely limited and decrease over time.

Many of the costs associated with traumatic brain injury are hidden because they do not directly affect the victim and thus are not reflected in his or her health care costs. Rather, they affect the unpaid family caregiver(s). Caregivers themselves are subject to significant physical and psychological problems. In addition, family members often lose their own income since they must stop working and stay home to provide the needed care for their loved one. It is estimated that the annual cost of such caregiver problems and the care they give to their disabled spouse, son or daughter is $375 billion.

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