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Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment: Recovery from TBI

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment: Recovery from TBI
Kevin Cleary

A traumatic brain injury is a life-altering and unfortunate event. For those who have suffered one and their loved ones, the road to recovery is laden with questions and unknowns. Many may not even know the right questions to ask, let alone find the answers. We can give you some information that may help answer some of these questions while undergoing traumatic brain injury treatment or recoverying from it. 

What is TBI and its Complications? 

So, what exactly is TBI, and how long does brain injury recovery take? Let’s start at the beginning and define Traumatic Brain Injury.

TBI an injury to the head that can cause long term damage to the brain. It is typically caused by an external force or mechanism (such as a blow to the head). This type of intracranial injury requires urgent medical attention and can be dangerous or life-threatening!! Unfortunately, TBI is relatively common, with over 200,000 cases per year in the United States.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Symptoms of TBI are often acute and serious, including: 

While this is only a partial list of symptoms, anyone who has had head trauma should see a medical professional ASAP. These symptoms can lead to cognitive problems such as Alexia, memory problems, mood swings, and even coma. If left untreated, TBI can result in: 

  • Seizures 
  • Blood vessel damage 
  • Altered consciousness 
  • Nerve damage or cognitive problems 

10 Stages of Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

With TBI so serious, what does the path to recovery look like, and how long is the TBI recovery timeline? Depending on the gravity of the brain injury, the TBI recovery timeline can vary. Doctors and emergency medical personnel assess the initial severity of a brain injury, using a 15-point scale called the Glascow Coma Scale. Traumatic Brain Injury treatment can vary from patient to patient and may require a lengthy recovery time. Other tools doctors use include: 

  • CT scan 
  • MRI 
  • Intracranial pressure monitor 

There are different stages of brain injury recovery, and one clinical tool doctors use to rate how patients suffering from TBI are recovering is the Rancho Los Amigos Levels of Cognitive Functioning Scale. The 10 levels of recovery on this scale include: 

Stage I– Coma

This is the first stage of healing, and it allows the brain to heal. It is a deep state of unconsciousness, and the patient shows no eye or purposeful movement and is unresponsive to their environment, even with stimulation.

Stage II– Vegetative State

Similar to a coma but with different neurological responses. Patients may show eye movement and react to stimuli. This reaction may be from parts of the brain that aren’t damaged or can be a sign of brain healing.

Stage III– Minimal Consciousness

When patients start coming in/out of consciousness, this improvement in TBI recovery has patients aware of people and surroundings. They may even respond to instructions/communications.

Stage IV– Post-Traumatic Amnesia

As TBI patients emerge from a coma, they may experience two types of amnesia: Retrograde & Anterograde Amnesia. The former is the lack of ability to remember past events, while latter is the inability to form new memories.

Stage V– Inappropriate Behaviors

During this stage of recovery, patients may have difficulty focusing on tasks and experience confusion. The difficulty communicating can be challenging and may even not make sense.

Stage VI– Confusion

Traumatic brain injury patients may be able to follow more commands and communicate during this stage of recovery. Focusing on tasks can be challenging, and memory issues may still exist.

Stage VII– Automatic and Appropriate

The ability to follow a schedule and complete daily activities independently during this stage of recovery. This important stage of recovery sees patients participate in therapy with OT/PT therapists and speech therapy.

Stage VIII– Purposeful

At this stage, patients can show improvement in memory and awareness but may continue to struggle with social issues, reaction time, and situations outside of their routine. With improvement in coping skills, patients may be allowed to leave the rehab center and go home.

Stage IX– Purposeful/Appropriate (standby assistance on request)

Traumatic brain injury patients at this stage are able to recognize and respond to the needs of others. They are generally able to complete familiar/unfamiliar tasks asking for help as necessary.

Stage X– Purposeful/Appropriate (modified independent)

This last stage has patients functionally independent and have fully recovered. They can handle multiple tasks at once, plan ahead, and adjust to unexpected events. Cognition may be slower than before injury, but patients have learned to compensate.

Many symptoms of TBI can be treated by a process called neuroplasticity. This process refers to the brain’s ability to repair neural connections and regain function after TBI and why doctors often encourage so much therapy during the early stages of recovery. 

Recovering from TBI

  1. Eat a brain-healthy diet: Your diet should contain foods rich in flavonoids and Omega-3 to promote healthy brain function. Fatty fish, dark chocolate, and leafy greens (kale and spinach) are options. 
  2. Create a routine: Brain injuries can make it difficult to make decisions and initiate activities, so sticking to a daily routine helps you stay active and prevents decline. This will help you know what’s next without having to make daily decisions. 
  3. Focus on “baby steps”: Celebrate even the small progress since these are still victories on your road to recovery. This will help keep you motivated to continue your recovery and therapy. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!! 
  4. Stay physically/socially active: The more active you are, the more your brain is stimulated. This helps create new neural pathways and better brain function. By interacting with family, friends, and loved ones, your cognitive function can improve and avoid depression. 

The TBI recovery timeline is not set in stone, and one stage may require more time than the one before it or the one after it. Be patient with your physiatrist or physical/occupational therapist, and be diligent with your therapy to maximize your brain injury recovery. 


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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