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These Are The Different Types and Levels of Brain Injuries

Doctor holds up analog brain scan images

No matter what type or how severe, brain injuries are always serious and should be treated as such. Brain injuries have the potential to cause serious long-term damage, which means they should always be addressed right away.

Here’s what you should know about the various types and levels of brain injuries:

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A TBI can occur when a sudden, external, physical assault harms the brain. In adults, TBI is one of the most common causes of disability and death.

However, TBI doesn’t necessarily refer to one type of head injury. There is an expansive range of injuries that can occur in the brain.

When brain damage is focal, it is confined to one region of the brain. When the brain sustains diffuse damage, it occurs in more than one area of the brain.

Types of TBI

There are two leading ways in which a brain injury can occur:

  • Closed brain injury
  • Penetrating brain injury

Closed Brain Injury

This type of injury occurs when you sustain an injury to your brain, but your skull remains unbroken. A closed brain injury can occur when your head suddenly moves forward or backward and the brain shakes inside the bony skull, resulting in the bruising and tearing of brain tissue and blood vessels.

Penetrating Brain Injury

This type of injury occurs when your skull is broken.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

DAI can occur when your brain’s axons are torn. Axons are the brain’s long connecting nerve fibers. This kind of injury happens when your brain shifts and rotates inside your bony skull.

DAI can impact many different areas of the brain, and it is common for people with this condition to go into a coma. Unfortunately, these types of brain changes are usually microscopic, which means they won’t necessarily be identified on computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Levels of TBI

There are three main levels of TBI, including:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe

The severity of a TBI is typically based on the following:

  • How long consciousness is lost
  • Coma rating scale
  • Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA)
  • Brain imaging results

Mild TBI

Some characteristics of mild TBI are:

  • Momentary loss of consciousness (typically a few seconds or minutes)
  • PTA for no more than 1 hour of the TBI
  • Normal brain imaging results

Moderate TBI

Some characteristics of moderate TBI are:

  • Lost consciousness for 1-24 hours
  • PTA for 1-24 hours of the TBI
  • Irregular brain imaging results

Severe TBI

Some characteristics of severe TBI are:

  • Lost consciousness or coma for 24+ hours
  • PTA for more than 24 hours of the TBI
  • Irregular brain imaging results

The following are the subcategories of severe TBI:

  • Coma
    • A state of unconsciousness from which you cannot wake up
  • Vegetative State
    • A state in which you are not in a coma but you are unaware of the environment
  • Persistent Vegetative State
    • A vegetative state that lasts for more than a month
  • Minimally Responsive State
    • A state in which you have a severe TBI but are no longer in a coma or vegetative state and you inconsistently interact with and/or respond to the environment

TBI Symptoms



  • Reduced attention and concentration
  • Reduced processing speed
  • Memory issues
  • Getting lost or confused
  • Reduced awareness and insight of challenges


  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Emotional mood swings


  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Visual disturbance
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Balance issues

Moderate and Severe


  • Reduced attention and concentration
  • Distractibility
  • Memory issues
  • Reduced processing speed
  • Amplified confusion
  • Perseveration
  • Impulsiveness
  • Reduced interaction abilities
  • Reduced executive function abilities
  • Reduced awareness of, and insight about, challenges


  • Dependent attitudes
  • Apathy
  • Reduced lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Acting out
  • Depression
  • Denial of challenges


  • Trouble speaking and being understood
  • Physical paralysis, weakness, or spasticity
  • Challenges with the sense of touch, temperature, movement, or position
  • Chronic pain
  • Reduced bladder and bowel control
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stamina loss
  • Shifts in appetite
  • Partial or total vision loss
  • Weakened eye muscles and/or double vision (diplopia)
  • Blurred vision
  • Issues judging distance
  • Spontaneous eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Light intolerance (photophobia)
  • Reduced or lost hearing
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Elevated sound sensitivity
  • Diminished or lost sense of smell (anosmia)
  • Reduced or lost sense of taste

If you have suffered a TBI in an accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. Our attorneys are highly skilled in matters regarding personal injury law and have helped many others in similar situations. Let us see if we can help you, too.

Contact the skilled attorneys at Berthold Law Firm, PLLC by calling (304) 605-2040 or by filling out our online contact form.

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  • Can Brain Injuries Sustained at Birth Get Worse Over Time? Read More
  • Can a Baby Recover From a Brain Injury Sustained At Birth? Read More

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