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What are the Phases of Brain Injury Recovery?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several phases to brain injury recovery, the first of which includes stabilization and assessment of injury, typically performed in a hospital emergency room setting. Subsequent phases will include physical rehabilitation, as well as speech-language therapy if necessary. Brain injury recovery will also depend upon a strong and long-term support system from loved ones.

At the onset of a serious brain injury, a crucial juncture is determining how serious the injury is and the prognosis for recovery. In the case of severe head trauma, bleeding must be controlled, either externally or inside the skull or brain itself. Other elements such as cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, or shock may occur in the presence of brain injury, and therefore these symptoms require immediate attention.

After the patient is stabilized with no imminent threat to his life, doctors will map out a course of action for recovery. The next brain injury recovery phase will be to situate the patient in a designated area of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for specialized trauma care. Depending upon the patient's injuries, physicians will typically perform a battery of assessments and laboratory work. Neurosurgeons will be on call to check on and treat any dire emergencies that may arise.

The next phase of brain injury recovery is to treat any complications that may arise, typically within the first 24-48 hours. Occasionally, complications such as infection may occur a week or two after the initial injury. Pneumonia and seizures are common complications for trauma patients.

During the phases of a comatose patient's road to recovery, response to stimuli may be a slow process. Initial body movements or body jerking and twitching may be involuntary. While some responses may be simple body reflexes, may experts believe that comatose patients have the ability to comprehend and hear sounds around them. This is why they often encourage loved ones to speak with the patient frequently.

Once the patient is showing no signs of coma and has regained consciousness, the next phase of brain injury recovery involves rehabilitation. This may involve re-learning simple everyday tasks, such as dressing and feeding himself. A professional physical therapist will be on hand to help him through this fundamental routine. This routine may include cognitive therapy as well as coordination and balance testing.

Part of physical rehabilitation for a brain injury recovery program will inevitably involve speech therapy. Depending upon the extent of injury, the person may need to learn how to speak all over again, just as in infancy. This process can take several months or even years before the patient recovers fully. Long-term care for brain injury recovery ultimately involves a series of therapy options.

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