Acquired Brain Injury – A Western Perspective

In my last blog, I went over traumatic brain injury in general, both for western and TCM. This article is on the western side of acquired brain injury.

Brain trauma has many names: traumatic brain injury (mild to severe), concussion, acquired brain injury, CVA, and so on. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are the leading cause of death due to accidents in the U.S. (Marieb, 2, 2006) and are the leading cause of seizure disorders (IBIA, 2011).

There are three types of brain injury: “external physical trauma, hypoxia, and neurodegenerative diseases” (Purves, 2008). In this article, we will be focusing on external or acquired brain injury.

What is a traumatic brain injury? Well, it is an injury to the brain caused by an external source, (e.g. hitting your head) (Purves, 2008). TBI’s can be caused by a fall where you hit your head or get hit in the head by something.

During the impact, the brain moves around inside your skull, hitting the inside of the skull in various locations, referred to as coup (initial impact) and contra-coup (second and tertiary impacts) (Marieb, 1, 2007). This movement of the brain causes the neurons to stretch and can also cause edema (brain swelling), contusions (bruising), and hemorrhage (bleeding) (Pluta, 2011). Other concomitant symptoms and injuries are skull fractures that can be mild to severe; and retrograde or anterograde amnesia (Pluta, 2011).

TBI’s can cause “many kinds of physical, cognitive, and behavioral/emotional impairments” (IBIA, 2011). These impairments can be mild to severe. Symptoms of a TBI include headache, confusion/disorientation, dizziness, amnesia, nausea/vomiting, sleepiness and or unconsciousness, difficulties with coordination, speech and decision making, poor concentration and memory problems. Disorders of taste and smell can occur as well (Pluta, 2011; Mayo, 2011).

Sometimes the person with the head injury will appear fine at first and later begin to show symptoms (Marieb, 2, 2006). All head injuries should be checked out, either by the doctor, urgent care or the emergency room. Remember head traumas are life threatening and are the leading cause of accidental death. So please, get treatment immediately.

Reference Sites:

International Brain Injury Association (IBIA), (2011). Brain Injury Facts. Retrieved from:

Flanagan, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, (2011). 2.1 Epidemiology of Acquired Brain Injury. Retrieved from:

WebMD, (2009). Head Injuries; Causes and Treatments. Retrieved from:

Marieb, E., et al,

  1. (2007). Human Anatomy and Physiology, Seventh Edition. Pearson Custom Publishing. ISBN: 10: 0-555-01719-2.
  2. (2006). Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology, Eighth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN: 0-8053-7327-6

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, (2011). Concussion. Retrieved from:

Purves, D., et al (2008). Neuroscience, 4th edition; Sinauer Associates, Inc.; ISBN: 978-0-87893-697-7

Pluta, R., et al (2011). Concussion. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Retrieved from:

Grout, M., Cripe, C. (2011). Treatment of Severe Depression Following Head Injury. Medical Acupuncture; A Journal For Physicians By Physicians. Retrieved from:

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Head Trauma

Well, my first article was going to be about something simple like “what exactly is Oriental Medicine”, but I have decided to write about head trauma instead.

A head/brain trauma is extremely serious and requires prompt emergency care.

What is a head trauma (or TBI – traumatic brain injury)? Well, it is an injury to the brain. It can be caused by a fall in which you hit your head, you get hit in the head by something, or in a car accident, for example. Basically, it’s when your brain is moved around within your skull, hitting the skull at various locations. “Coup” is the initial impact, and “contra-coup” are the second and tertiary, etc., impacts. These impacts cause injury to the brain in the form of swelling, bruising, bleeding, and cell death, and sometimes causing retrograde or anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is loss of memories before the injury. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to create new memories after the injury.

In Oriental Medicine (OM), trauma, regardless of where it is located in the body, is usually considered a local qi and blood stagnation with a preponderance of blood or a preponderance of qi, depending on the patient’s signs and symptoms. It is more blood stagnation if the pain is sharp and more qi if the pain is dull. Regardless, qi and blood stagnation is considered an “excess” condition.

My next articles will go into more detail into head trauma for both western and oriental medicine and will contain great reference sites for you to read.

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