Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt or other head injury causes damage to the brain. Every year, millions of people in the United States suffer brain injuries. More than half are bad enough that people must go to the hospital. The worst injuries can lead to permanent brain damage or death. Half of all TBIs are from motor vehicle accidents. Military personnel in combat zones also are at risk. 

Symptoms of a TBI may not appear until days or weeks following the injury. A concussion is the mildest type of TBI. It can cause a headache or neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness and tiredness. People with a moderate or severe TBI may have those, plus other symptoms:

  • A headache that gets worse or does not go away
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
  • Dilated eye pupils

Health care professionals use a neurological exam and imaging tests to assess TBI. Serious traumatic brain injuries need emergency treatment. Treatment and outcome depend on the severity of the injury. TBI can cause a wide range of changes affecting thinking, sensation, language or emotions. TBI can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. People with severe injuries usually need rehabilitation.

Learn more about brain injuries.

Source: National Institutes of Health: National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Why choose Ohio State for treatment of traumatic brain injuries?

Breadth of Neurological Services: As a Level I – the highest level – trauma service center, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has specialized neurological experts and services immediately available to handle a breadth of traumatic brain injuries, from mild to severe.

Neuro Intensive CareOur fellowship-trained neuro intensivists offer a level of care unmatched in central Ohio for managing swelling of the brain and other complications of traumatic brain injuries.

Advanced Neuroimaging: We use cutting-edge neuro metabolic imaging to determine severity of concussion or brain injury. Information gathered by neuro metabolic imaging, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, can significantly increase our ability to detect the extent of your injury, thus guiding long-term treatment plans. We also routinely use computed tomography (CT) and MRI scans in the early stages to assess for swelling and bleeding in the brain.

Traumatic Brain Injury Research: We are one of only 16 centers in the country to pursue innovative projects and research through the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems program to help people with traumatic brain injury. The program is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and awards grants to us and other institutions that are national leaders in medical research and patient care. Through our participation, you receive access to the most advanced treatments and therapies available for TBI.

Brain Injury Rehabilitation ProgramWe are the only rehabilitation program in central Ohio certified to handle traumatic brain injury. Our patients have excellent outcomes, including:

  • Functional gains that exceed national standards
  • Discharge-to-home rate that is higher than the national average
  • Recovery of self-care, mobility and cognitive thinking skills exceeding national averages  


Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury

We have developed several traumatic brain injury assessment tools integral to the treatment of patients with TBI. Our researchers also have collaborated with researchers at leading institutions to create instruments used nationwide for TBI:

The Ohio State University Traumatic Brain Injury Identification Method (OSU TBI-ID) is an interviewer-administered questionnaire that captures the lifetime history of traumatic brain injury. The OSU TBI-ID gives data for calculating the likelihood that consequences have resulted from lifetime exposure to traumatic brain injury.

The Agitated Behavior Scale was developed at Ohio State to allow objective assessment of agitation in patients with traumatic brain injuries with the goal of reducing agitation and its effect on treatment.

Participation Assessment with Recombined Tools-Objective (PART-O) provides an objective measure of increasing or decreasing social engagement over time. An individual’s ability to participate in various social roles within the community is a key outcome from rehabilitation.  


Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

We follow the nationally recognized Brain Trauma Foundation standardized guidelines for all levels of traumatic brain injury, which ensures that you receive the highest level of care available anywhere in central Ohio.

If testing reveals you have moderate to severe TBI, we will promptly admit you to our Neuro Intensive Care Unit for management and treatment of brain swelling and other complications of your injury.

If brain swelling cannot be controlled with intensive medical care, our neurosurgeons can perform a decompressive craniectomy, a procedure that removes a piece of the skull to allow the brain room to swell and expand. We preserve the bone and re-insert it once your brain has returned to normal size. 

Whether your head injury is mild or severe, we have a team of experts implementing your personalized treatment plan. Our specialists include:

  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians or physiatrists, who specialize in helping people regain body functions lost due to medical conditions or injuries
  • Neurologists, who specialize in disorders of the nervous system
  • Neurosurgeons, who specialize in surgery on the brain and other parts of the nervous system
  • Neuropsychologists, who specialize in the effects that injury to or diseases of the brain and spinal cord have on emotions, behavior and learning
  • Certified rehabilitation nurses, who specialize in the care of the chronically ill and injured
  • Physical therapists, who specialize in helping patients achieve maximum strength, balance and mobility
  • Occupational therapists, who specialize in improving patients' ability to complete activities of daily living
  • Speech-language pathologists, who specialize in helping patients improve communication, cognition and swallowing
  • Recreational therapists, who specialize in providing education and community-based interventions to improve patients' physical, mental, social and emotional well-being
  • Respiratory therapists, who specialize in assessing and treating breathing disorders
  • Dietitians, who specialize in nutrition and dietetics
  • Social workers, who help patients and families with social, emotional and financial needs
  • Case managers, who coordinate inpatient and post-hospital care and services for patients and families
  • Rehabilitation engineers, who specialize in determining the proper assistive technology devices, such as wheelchairs, braces and special computer equipment, for patients



If a brain injury causes problems with movement, walking, communication, swallowing safely, thinking skills or behavior control, then rehabilitation is crucial to maximize the potential for recovery. Recovery may take weeks, months or may be a lifelong process.

Our Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program is a national leader in rehabilitative care for traumatic and non-traumatic brain injuries. We develop new treatments and therapies to restore independence and enhance quality of life for those who have incurred serious brain injuries.

We provide an individualized care plan to help you get back — as much as possible — to the person you were before your injury. Our medical specialists work to stabilize you, both medically and neurologically, so you can receive the full benefit of our rehabilitative care and treatment.

Other services

Your treatment team may recommend a variety of other rehab services, including:



A national leader in brain injury research, Ohio State is one of only 16 Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems in the country for research on treatment of patients who experience TBI. Since 1987, we have studied the lifelong effects of severe TBI and played a pivotal role in improving care standards and treatments for patients with TBI.

Founded in 1992 at Ohio State, the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation has developed research and community education efforts that have resulted in better assessment and treatment of this patient population. Treating agitation and irritability and measuring long-term outcomes from brain injury are key areas of our research.

It is estimated that up to half of people with brain injuries have substance abuse issues, and Ohio State is well known for our research in this area. Substance abuse treatment protocols developed for patients with TBI at Ohio State are used by healthcare professionals, individuals and families all over the country. The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Network located at Ohio State’s Martha Morehouse Pavilion treats adults dealing with both brain injury and drug or alcohol abuse. You benefit from coordinated outpatient treatment that combines community resources and family support to help you adapt to a new life without substances.

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Additional Information

When you are seeing one of our specialists for the first time, please bring any medical records from previous head injury treatments, including results of neuropsychological or neurocognitive evaluations. We also request that you bring a CD of imaging studies, including CTs or MRIs of the brain. 

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