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Traumatic brain injuries: What are the recovery steps?

Traumatic brain injuries are common when someone has had a hard bludgeon to the head, which can occur in car accidents, fights, slip-and-falls or a number of other incidents. The blow to the head doesn’t have to cause outward cuts and bruising for a brain injury take place. A hard blow to the head can cause the brain to jar up against the front or back of the skull, damaging the brain inside. Bruising and bleeding of the brain are common.

When bleeding in the brain occurs, healthy brain tissue is affected and functionality may be impaired. Initial or early stages in the recovery process may include coma, a vegetative state or a minimally conscious state. After a brain injury, a person may experience agitation, frustration, restlessness and an impaired ability to focus, pay attention and learn. The person may even be aggressive and abusive physically. Behavior may be well out of the ordinary.

How long is recovery? Recovery periods vary depending on the severity of the brain injury. The duration of time spent in a coma or an amnesia state is often helpful to medical teams in giving some sense of recovery time, but because each person is different and there is not an abundant amount of research to rely on at this time, it is still not completely predictable.

Usually, the first six months, you will see the fastest healing take place, and then the recovery slows down somewhat. The person will usually see significant improvements in functionality during that first six months, and can appear to be almost back to normal if the head injury was not too traumatic. During the next two years, healing usually continues, but at a slower pace. A person should continue to see more cognitive improvements. After two years, the healing slows down considerably, but improvements may still occur over time.

Recovery of a TBI may never be fully complete, depending on the severity. The more severe, the less the percentage of full recovery.

Source: The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, “Understanding TBI: Part 3 – The Recovery Process” Nov. 25, 2014

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