Symptoms and Signs of Head Injury (Traumatic Brain Injury)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 10/14/2022

Doctor's Notes on Head Injury (Traumatic Brain Injury)

Traumatic brain injury describes damage to the brain that results from any kind of injury to the head or the body. When a head injury occurs, loss of brain function can occur even without visible damage to the head. Force applied to the head may cause the brain to be directly injured or shaken, bouncing against the inner wall of the skull. The trauma can cause bleeding in the spaces surrounding the brain, bruise the brain tissue, or damage the nerve connections within the brain.

Symptoms of head injury (traumatic brain injury) can vary widely from no initial symptoms to coma. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury may include

  • unconsciousness (even for a short period),
  • prolonged confusion,
  • seizures, and
  • multiple episodes of vomiting.

Concussion-type symptoms that result from head injuries may include

  • difficulty concentrating,
  • increased mood swings,
  • lethargy or aggression, and
  • altered sleep habits.

A serious head injury should be evaluated by a medical professional to check for a possible concussion.

What Is the Treatment for a Head Injury (Traumatic Brain Injury)?

The treatment for a head injury depends on the severity. A minor head injury that leaves no residual symptoms may not need treatment. Moderate head injuries or those with significant symptoms may need specialist care under the guidance of a neurologist or head injury specialist. Head injuries can lead to concussions and post-concussion syndrome. The goal of treatment of head injuries with the post-concussion syndrome is to relieve symptoms, and may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Vision therapy
  • Graduated exercise therapy 

Head injuries with serious injury, bleeding, coma, neurologic deficits, and/or seizures will need emergency evaluation and treatment at a hospital. Treatment interventions for serious head injuries may include:

  • Intensive care treatments
  • Surgery 
  • Oxygenation on a ventilator 
  • Medications to decrease brain swelling 
  • Blood pressure control 
  • Reversal of blood thinners if the patient is on them 
  • Anti-seizure medications

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.