Severe Memory Loss Due to Traumatic Brain Injury

by : Alan Haburchak

The consequences that can be suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can range in severity. One of the most common cognitive side effects with a brain injury is memory loss. Amnesia can occur in TBI victims with mild brain damage and is one of the most common types of symptoms.

Temporary Memory Loss and TBI

Some traumatic brain injury-related amnesia is temporary; such patients are usually unable to recall what happened directly before, during and after their accidents. This is often caused by edema, or a swelling of the brain in response to the damage it sustained. Parts of the brain that were uninjured in a traumatic brain injury incident may not work because the brain is pressed against the skull. Often, the victim's memory will return slowly as the brain's swelling decreases. This can occur over a few weeks or even take as much as several years. Memory loss, specifically temporary memory loss, can be just an emotional side affect of the TBI, which is usually stress related caused by the trauma of the injury.

Other, less common, types of memory loss stemming from traumatic brain injury are fixed. This is the outcome of nerves and the connections between the nerves, also called axons, being damaged. Brain injuries are often more traumatic than a regular injury as a brain cannot heal itself as other body parts, therefore, traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent damage. Fixed amnesia may include inability to remember events before the injury, or loss of memory of the meanings of certain things, such as words or smells or objects. Less commonly, a person may not remember skills he or she had before the TBI.

Brain Damage and Anteretrograde Amnesia

A patient with TBI may also develop anteretrograde amnesia -- an inability to form memories of events that happened after the injury. These reasons are not understood but a recent study by the researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in October 2006 suggests that a traumatic brain injury decreases protein levels in the brain, which normally balances the activity. Without enough of that protein, the brain can "overload," the researchers said, interfering with memory formation, particularly the ability to learn new things.

Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients with Amnesia

There is no treatment for memory loss caused by a traumatic brain injury; memory loss can take a long time to return and in some cases, if it does not return, can be lost entirely. However, a September 2006 study published in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed promising results in TBI patients with anteretrograde memory loss who took the drug rivastigmine. The drug, which is sold to Alzheimer's disease patients under the brand name Exelon, helped patients with moderate to severe memory loss score better on memory tests than another group of patients that took placebos. The results were not as good for patients who had only mild memory loss. If you suffer from traumatic brain injury-related memory problems, you may wish to contact an experienced TBI attorney to discuss your options, which may include filing a brain injury lawsuit in order to gain compensation for your medical costs.