- Medication Types
- How Do They Work?
- TBI Types
- TBI Symptoms
- TBI Causes
- TBI Treatment
What are traumatic brain injury (TBI) medications?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) medications are administered to treat traumatic brain injuries, prevent further (secondary) injury to the brain, and manage adverse conditions that result from a traumatic brain injury.
Several classes of medications are used for emergency treatment in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, as well as for long term management of any physiological, psychological and neurological problems arising from the TBI.
Stabilizing the patient’s vital parameters and preventing secondary injury are the immediate goals of treatment after a brain injury. Medications used during the treatment of acute phase of injury include:
- Diuretics to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and reduce the pressure in the brain (intracranial pressure)
- Magnesium to improve blood flow to the brain and maintain a stable state (homeostasis) in the brain
- Anticonvulsants such as gabapentin to prevent seizures from overactive neurons which are activated by the injury
- Sedative agents such as barbiturates to reduce intracranial pressure or induce a medical coma in serious brain injuries
For long-term management of TBI-related conditions, a patient may require medications such as antidepressants, muscle relaxers, pain relievers, and stimulants to treat deficits in cognitive functions such as attention, memory, learning and language.
What are the types of traumatic brain injury medications?
Medications administered for traumatic brain injuries depend on the type of injury, its severity and resultant functional impairment. Medications also vary depending on the stages of treatment, which include the acute phase of treatment immediately after the injury, and long-term management of chronic symptoms.
The types of TBI medications include the following:
Acute care medications
- Osmotic diuretics
- N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists
- Calcium channel blockers
Long-term management medications
How do traumatic brain injury medications work?
Acute care medications
Osmotic diuretics work by decreasing the brain’s water content, which is drained and excreted in the urine. Osmotic diuretics are used for a short period during acute care to reduce the edema and intracranial pressure. Osmotic diuretic used for TBI treatment is:
Anticonvulsant medications are administered to prevent seizures. TBI can result in excessive release of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) which overstimulate the neurons resulting in seizures and secondary injury to the brain. Anticonvulsants used in TBI treatment include:
- Phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek)
- Valproate sodium
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Topiramate (Topamax)
- Carbamazepine (Equetro)
Traumatic brain injury can lower electrolyte levels which can adversely affect heart function and blood pressure. Magnesium improves blood flow to the brain and also plays a role in preventing overstimulation of the neurons by inhibiting an excitatory neurotransmitter known as glutamate. Electrolytes administered after a TBI include:
- Magnesium sulfate (NMDA)
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists reduce the hyperactivity of neurons and prevent secondary injury to the brain. Glutamate and another excitatory neurotransmitter known as aspartate, both of which are released after an injury, stimulate the NMDA receptors causing abnormal neuronal activity.
NMDA receptor antagonists block the activity of NMDA receptors. NMDA receptor antagonist commonly prescribed after a TBI is:
- Dextromethorphan/quinidine (Nuedexta)
Barbiturates which have sedative and anticonvulsant properties may be administered if other methods to lower the intracranial pressure are not effective. Barbiturates may also be administered to induce a medical coma in patients with severe brain injury. Barbiturates used in TBI treatment include:
- Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal sodium)
Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers help prevent blood vessel spasms and maintain blood supply to the brain. Calcium channel blockers have been found to be useful in preventing secondary damage after subarachnoid hemorrhages. The commonly used calcium channel blocker in TBI treatment is:
Stimulants help improve some aspects of cognitive functions such as alertness and attention, by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine. Stimulants used in TBI treatment include:
Dopamine agonists stimulate the release of dopamine which helps improve alertness. An example of dopamine agonist used in TBI treatment is:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs increase the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. SSRIs are administered to treat emotional disturbances that can occur after a TBI. Examples of SSRIs used in TBI include:
Antipsychotic medications are prescribed to treat psychosis and other mental conditions that can result from a TBI. A commonly prescribed antipsychotic medication is:
Muscle relaxers are used to relax muscle cramping and tightening because of injury to motor neurons in the brain. Commonly prescribed muscle relaxers include:
- Tizanidine hydrochloride (Zanaflex)
- Baclofen (Lioresal)
- Dantrolene sodium (Dantrium)
- Diazepam (Valium, Diazepam Intensol)
- Cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride (Amrix)
Pain relievers used for management of pain from TBI include:
Your doctor should be consulted about the best choice of pain medicine to use, depending on the type of TBI. Some pain medicines may exacerbate bleeding in the brain.
- Please visit our medication section of each drug within its class for more detailed information.
- If your prescription medication isn’t on this list, remember to look on MedicineNet.com drug information or discuss with your healthcare provider and pharmacist.
- It is important to discuss all the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their effects, possible side effects and interaction with each other.
- Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting with your doctor.
What are the classifications of a traumatic brain injury?
An injury from a blow or jolt to the head which impairs normal functions of the brain is considered a traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries can cause bruising and bleeding in the brain, damage brain cells, cause swelling (edema) in the brain, and release large quantities of neurochemicals which can be toxic to the brain.
Traumatic brain injuries are primarily classified as:
- Penetrating injury in which something penetrates the skull and injures the brain.
- Non-penetrating or blunt injury in which a blow to the head, or a jolt such as a whiplash, which may knock the brain against the inside of the skull.
A traumatic brain injury may be mild, moderate or severe (also termed grade 1, 2 and 3). Mild TBIs, also known as concussions, are usually not life-threatening, and symptoms often last for only a short period. However, researchers suggest multiple concussions may be responsible for some chronic brain changes. Severe head injuries may cause lasting damage to the brain, disabilities, coma or death.
Types of traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injuries may be focal, in a small specific area, or diffuse injury over a large area of the brain, which may not be apparent on a CT scan, but causes TBI symptoms.
Types of traumatic brain injuries include the following:
- Hematoma: A hematoma is a blood clot that forms inside or on the surface of the brain after an injury.
- Contusion: Contusions are areas of bruising, with injured brain tissue and blood that has leaked out of tiny blood vessels.
- Hemorrhage: Hemorrhage is uncontrolled bleeding in any part of the brain, which may be of two types:
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding in the space around the brain.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage: Bleeding within the brain tissue.
- Diffuse axonal injury: Axons are long, hair-like projections from nerve cells (neurons), which enable communication between nerve cells and make the body function. Diffuse axonal injury is one of the most dangerous types of TBI because it can cause severe and lasting disabilities.
- Ischemia: Ischemia is inadequate blood supply to parts of the brain, because of injury.
- Skull fractures: Skull fractures may be simple cracks in the skull or fragments of skull that push into the brain, damage brain tissue, blood vessels and nerves, and cause leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Latest Neurology News
Daily Health News
What Are Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury?
Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of injury. Symptoms of a mild TBI include:
- Headache and neck pain
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Brief loss of consciousness
In addition to the above symptoms which may continue to last, a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may cause any of the following symptoms:
- Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid from the ears or nose
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Loss of muscle control
- Dilated pupils and vision problems
- Speech difficulty
- Breathing problems
- Memory loss and other cognitive problems
- Change of mental state
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle stiffness (spasticity)
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
Leading causes for traumatic brain injuries include the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls, particularly in aged persons and children
- Violent assaults and abuse
- Sports injuries
- Gunshot wounds
What is the treatment for a traumatic brain injury?
The treatment for a traumatic brain injury depends on the severity of the injury. A mild injury may need no more than pain relievers and rest for the symptoms to resolve. It is important, however, to watch if any of the symptoms persist, and if so, consult a doctor.
Severe TBIs require rapid assessment of the injury and the patient’s condition to determine the appropriate treatment. Doctors commonly use a clinical assessment scale known as Glasgow Coma Scale to evaluate the patient’s consciousness level based on their response.
Depending on the type of injury, emergency treatment for a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may include:
- Steps to stabilize the patient’s blood circulation and breathing, control blood loss, reduce intracranial pressure and prevent secondary injury
- Surgery to remove hematomas, reduce intracranial pressure, and remove bone fragments in the case of a complicated skull fracture
Treatment to manage long-term symptoms and complications that result from a TBI include:
- Rehabilitation therapies such as:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Emotional counseling
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Types of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medications Related Articles
Brain Aneurysm Warning SignsBrain aneurysms may rarely cause any warning symptoms before they rupture. Symptoms may occur if the aneurysm is large or if it causes pressure on the structures around it.
Brain aneurysm (cerebral aneurysm) is caused by microscopic damage to artery walls, infections of the artery walls, tumors, trauma, drug abuse. Symptoms include headache, numbness of the face, dilated pupils, changes in vision, the "worst headache of your life," or a painful stiff neck. Immediate treatment for a brain aneurysm is crucial for patient survival.
Brain Cancer SymptomsBrain cancer, whether primary or secondary cancer, involves invasive brain tumors including gliomas and glioblastomas. Learn the brain cancer survival rate, treatment options including chemotherapy, and the different brain tumor grades. Find out how the right treatment plan can fight cancerous brain tissue.
ConcussionA concussion is a short-lived loss of brain function that is due to head trauma. There are two types of concussion, simple and complex. Symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness, dazed feeling, irritability, and visual symptoms. Physical signs include poor concentration, emotional changes, slurred speech, and personality changes. Concussion is diagnosed with physical examination and testing. Treatment for a concussion in general includes treatment for control of the symptoms and time.
Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, TreatmentBrain damage causes destruction or deterioration of brain cells. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and acquired brain injury (ABI) are two kinds of brain damage. Symptoms may include headaches, confusion, memory problems, nausea, and more. Treatment includes patient stabilization and ensuring that blood and oxygen are flowing to the brain. Adequate blood pressure control is also necessary. In cases of severe brain damage, surgery and rehabilitation may be required.
Brain Foods SlideshowLearn how to increase concentration and boost memory. Brain foods such as fish (omega 3 fatty acids), berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate, vitamins and more can help.
Brain HemorrhageA brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused when an artery bursts in the brain, causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissue. Causes of brain hemorrhage include aneurysm, liver disease, brain tumor, head trauma, high blood pressure, and blood vessel abnormalities. Symptoms include sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, tingling, numbness, vision changes, loss of consciousness, and loss of fine motor skills. Treatment depends upon the cause, location, and size of the brain hemorrhage.
Brain PictureThe brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. See a picture of the Brain and learn more about the health topic.
10 Facts About the Amazing Brain QuizTake this quiz to learn about your amazing brain! It's the most complex part of your body, and is responsible for many functions, including how you behave!
Can You Heal a Damaged Brain?Brain damage can be caused either by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or acquired brain injury (ABI). You cannot heal a damaged brain. Medical treatments can just help to stop further damage and limit the functional loss from the damage.
Concussions & Brain Damage QuizWhat is a concussion? Learn causes, symptoms, and treatments of this very common traumatic brain injury by taking this quick quiz.
Brain Injuries SlidesConcussions are a common type of traumatic brain injury. Read more about symptoms of a concussion, how to treat head injuries, and learn about tests used to diagnose concussions.
What Are the Differences Between Anoxia and Hypoxia?Anoxia and hypoxia are often used interchangeably, but they do refer to different things. Learn what the differences are.
Head Injury (Brain Injury)In the United States, head injuries are one of the most common causes of death and disability. Head injuries due to bleeding are generally classified by the location of the blood within the skull, these include epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma, subarachnoid bleed, intracranial bleed, sheer injury, edema, and skull fracture. Some common symptoms of a head injury include vomiting, bleeding from the ear, speech difficulties, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and body numbness. Treatment of a head injury depends on the type and severity of the injury.
How the Brain Works: Test Your Medical IQTake this quiz and test your knowledge of how the human brain works. You may be surprised!
Brain Foods for Kids: Healthy Food for Kids’ BrainsUse this brain foods list to make your child smarter and healthier with these brain-boosting meals! Developing brains needs the right foods to boost learning and improve concentration.