Epilepsy frequently develops as a result of traumatic brain injury. Epilepsy is defined as the occurrence of more than one seizure. A seizure is caused when the electrical pathways in the brain short-circuit and cause a burst of electrical energy t o overwhelm a portion of the brain, or the entire brain. The effects of this short-circuit an range from momentary unconsciousness all the way up to a Grand Mal seizure, which is the type of seizure most people with traumatic brain injury develop. In a Grand Mal seizure, the person first loses consciousness, which is followed by a tonic phase where the person stiffens for about a minute. The person then will begin to thrash violently for a short period of time and finally enter a sleep-like stage.
Seizures can begin immediately after the traumatic brain injury, or they can be delayed for years. The most frequent time frame for the first seizure is approximately three months after the brain injury. The faster the first seizure occurs after the brain injury, the more likely there is to be future seizures and the development of epilepsy. The type of injury also influences the chances of epilepsy developing. Open wounds that involve penetration into the brain tissue are much more likely to cause the development of epilepsy. The severity of the brain injury also is directly related to how frequently epilepsy develops, however even some of the most severe head trauma patients never develop epilepsy while a person suffering only a mild concussion may, in fact, develop epilepsy in the months following the concussion.
Epilepsy is diagnosed mainly using an electroencephalograph, or EEG. Almost all patients who develop epilepsy following a traumatic brain injury will have an abnormal EEG. Following a traumatic brain injury, the doctor will often prescribe anti-seizure medications. This is important because a seizure is a very dangerous event which can cause further brain injuries from motor vehicle accidents or falling. The more frequent seizures occur, the more likely there is to be subsequent seizures.
Traumatic brain injuries often result in the normal brain neural pathways being disrupted. In many cases this leads to a short-circuit which results in a seizure. Because the damage to the brain is often severe, this results in frequent seizures, or epilepsy. In traumatic brain injury patients, the most common type of seizure is the general seizure, or Grand Mal. The initial seizure can occur shortly after the brain injury, or can take months or years to occur. The quicker the initial seizure occurs, the more likely it is the epilepsy will develop.