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Predicting the Recovery Time for a Patient with a TBI

Published on Oct 31, 2019 at 6:45 pm in Brain Injury.

Doctor holding chart

Any time someone sustains a head injury, it’s imperative to seek medical attention as soon as possible. While some injuries are visible, many are not. A person could appear completely unharmed while actually having sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Once a person is seen by medical professionals, an official diagnosis and treatment plan can be made, so recovery can begin.

Predicting the recovery time for a patient with a TBI is challenging. There are a number of elements to take into consideration including, the severity of the injury, what part of the brain is damaged, the amount of rehabilitation, and the patient’s support system. Understanding the factors that could impact your recovery time, in addition to learning about how to maximize your chances of healing, can give you an idea of how long your recovery will take.

Understanding the Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

While all brain injuries are unique, there are different types depending on the force and amount of force that impacts the head. In some cases, only one functional area of the brain is affected. In more severe cases, multiple areas are damaged.

  • Concussion. A concussion occurs when the brain receives trauma from an impact or sudden momentum change. As the blood vessels in the brain stretch, the cranial nerves may be damaged, and the person may or may not lose consciousness. Because the severity ranges so significantly, recovery could last weeks, months, or years.
  • Contusion. A contusion, which is a bruise on the brain, is the result of direct impact to the head. Because of the amount of bleeding they can cause, large contusions may need to be surgically removed.
  • Coup-Contrecoup. A coup-contrecoup happens when the force impacting the skull causes a contusion at the impact sight and moves the brain into the opposite side of the skull.
  • Diffuse Axonal. When the head is shaken or strongly rotated, brain structures are at risk of tearing. As nerve tissue tears, chemicals are released and temporary or permanent damage, coma, or death is possible. The impairments vary depending on the location of the torn brain tissue.
  • Penetration. This happens when impacts from a bullet, knife, or other sharp objects force fragments into the brain.

Levels of Brain Injury

As your doctor will explain to you, your injury is labeled according to the Glasgow Coma Scale. This scale takes eye opening response, verbal response, and motor response into consideration using a point scale. The fewer points a patient receives, the more severe their injury. A more serious injury means a longer recovery time.

A mild TBI typically happens when someone loses consciousness for a very brief amount of time. When they wake up they may feel confused, but their brain scans will likely appear normal. A mild injury is diagnosed only when there is a change in mental status at the time of injury. A concussion is a common mild TBI.

A moderate traumatic brain injury usually results from a non-penetrative blow to the head or violent shaking. When this level of injury occurs a person may experience loss of consciousness for minutes or hours, confusion for days or weeks, and other physical, cognitive, or behavioral impairments. While some patients with moderate TBIs experience very few consequences, others deal with lifelong disabilities.

Severe brain injuries are the result of a crushing blow or penetrating wound to the head. Delicate brain tissue is damaged, and life-saving medical intervention is necessary. Both open and closed head injuries can require prolonged hospitalization and extensive rehabilitation. In some cases, rehabilitation is ineffective and there’s no return to pre-injury status.

Factors Impacting TBI Recovery

Common impairments TBI victims experience include issues with memory and visual perception, fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, anger, irritability, anxiety, and depression. There are a number of factors that impact the severity of those symptoms in addition to the length of their TBI recovery. Those factors are environmental, personal, and medical.

Environmental factors include how the injury occurred, the severity of the injury, the disability services available to the patient, the patient’s family functioning and social support, and their access to transportation.

Personal factors involve how old the person is, their level of education, gender, genetics, behavior problems, pain, sleep disturbances, and the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medical care factors are related to the patient’s access to acute care, their access to general medical, mental, behavioral, or rehabilitative care, and the quality of the care they receive.

Improving Your Chances of Maximum Recovery

Recovery involves identifying your needs and goals, finding ways to maintain your own sense of personal power, and being sensitive toward others without ignoring your needs. Keeping those tasks in mind is crucial to maximizing recovery.

To aid in those tasks, it’s useful to have a positive attitude. It’s understandable to feel anxious, fearful, or depressed after an accident that results in a serious injury. Doing what you can to maintain a positive attitude can make difficult rehab sessions a little easier.

It’s also important to have structure. Following a routine that includes eating, resting, sleeping, and working allows the brain to save energy and rest. For the same reason, it’s important to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.

If you are struggling with depression or boredom after sustaining a TBI, it’s easy for your relationships to suffer. Ensuring your family is involved with your recovery and that you have access to support groups and friendships can keep the drive to recover strong.

While following the steps above can increases your chances of recovery, it’s important to understand that there is a limit to how far some TBI patients will recover. The brain does have the ability to heal itself, but repairing or growing new cells after a severe injury is limited. The majority of the recovery process takes place as the brain is rewiring itself and using other pathways to bypass broken connections.

If your TBI was caused by the negligent actions of someone else, you may have grounds to seek compensation for your losses. To learn more about the possibility of monetary recovery, contact our office today. Our lawyers will evaluate your situation and help you determine how to proceed.

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