Everyone knows that brain injuries can have tragic aftermath: Those affected may fall into a coma. What happens when they wake up? Neuroscience is a complex and specialized area of medicine—because recovering from brain damage is a long and difficult process. The good news is, for many patients, recovery is possible.
The Impacts of Brain Injury in America
Around 1.5 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury every year, and more than 230,000 end up in the hospital. Between 2001 and 2015, the number of patients treated for this type of injury has steadily increased. Though a traumatic brain injury (TBI) isn’t always devastating, around 3 in 10 injury-related deaths involve one. Many other patients develop disabilities as a result of TBI.
We can try to keep ourselves safe by avoiding dangerous situations (athletes and military members may be hurt in the course of their work), but TBIs are most commonly caused by accidents: falls, car crashes, or collision of the head with a hard surface. These injuries aren’t all severe, but the potential for great damage can be scary for the loved ones of a patient.
Can a Traumatic Brain Injury Be Cured?
In some cases, a TBI patient may be able to return to their normal life relatively quickly. In others, they may sustain a lifelong disability. Their outcome typically depends on how serious the injury was.
- Mild TBIs, or concussions, may result in minor symptoms including headache and dizziness.
- Moderate TBIs usually result in a loss of consciousness. Patients may be lethargic, confused, or non-reactive.
- Severe TBIs cause a coma, usually lasting 6 hours or more.
All result from damage to brain cells; excessive force may cause a patient’s axons to shear, stretch, or twist. These cells may swell, experience compositional changes, detach, or die due to such an impact. In some cases, parts of the brain may change in size or shape.
Unlike other cells in our bodies, the brain cannot regenerate. Scientists do not fully understand how the brain recovers from injuries, but they suggest:
- Bruising or swelling may temporarily affect neuron function but do not cause any damage. When the cells return to their normal state, they work correctly.
- An undamaged part of the brain may fulfill needs formerly done by the injured cells.
- Cells may connect to each other in new ways, allowing processes to continue in a different manner.
TBI Treatment Methods
Because brain injury affects every patient differently, it’s virtually impossible to project how a patient will progress or what skills they may or may not regain. Depending on the severity of the injury and the region of the brain impacted, patients may exhibit symptoms relating to language processing, motor skills, attention, movement and coordination, vision, hearing, and more. Each patient’s symptoms must be fully evaluated before a treatment plan can be formed.
Because TBI patients may never fully recover, clinicians aim to help them regain as much independence as they can. By taking advantage of strengths and finding ways to mitigate hardships, caregivers help patients develop skills and strategies for handling disability as they rebuild their capabilities. They do their best to find ways for patients to communicate with others and participate in life events, including finding accommodations where possible. Long-term studies show that around 30% of TBI patients continue to require some assistance from day-to-day, though many are able to regain basic skills. Over 90% are able to live in a private home after 2 or more years of recovery.
Types of Treatment
Physicians have many different options to rehabilitate TBI patients, and technology is continually contributing new therapies. Specialists who help patients recover include:
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Speech-language therapist
Video game and VR environments are currently undergoing testing for their potential in helping patients improve balance, coordination, attention, and concentration. Medication may also be used to improve cognitive symptoms or help manage mental illness, a common complication of a TBI.
Healing from a Traumatic Brain Injury: Four Stages of Recovery
Unlike broken bones or dermal abrasions, traumatic brain injuries do not have a typical rate of recovery. However, they do all follow the same four stages:
- Coma: Patients are unconscious; they cannot react to stimuli or open their eyes. Typically, they begin to recover abilities one at a time—when these changes are spotted, they are said to be emerging from a coma.
- Vegetative State: A step before true consciousness, patients may display normal sleep-wake cycles and be able to open their eyes. They may show reflexive responses to stimuli but do not interact with their environment.
- Minimally Conscious State: Patients begin to respond to their surroundings in this state but may do so sporadically or show only weak reactions.
- Recovery of Consciousness: When a patient shows full awareness of their surroundings and regularly responds to it, they are said to have regained consciousness. This state does not signify a total restoration of ability but can be the starting point for extended treatment.
Representation for TBI Patients
Often, TBI is not the injured party’s fault. High-impact events such as car crashes, workplace accidents, or attacks can result in these serious damages. The victims of events like these could be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover for:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Future related expenses
If you have questions about a lawsuit, our team at Pratt Clay, LLC may be able to help.