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Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Stages – What You Need to Know

by Melanie Peterson

Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Stages

If a person has experienced a severe traumatic brain injury or TBI, there are a couple of possible stages they might go through. This is based on the Rancho Los Amigos Scale, or RLAS, and it follows the recovery process after the injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Stages - What You Need to Know

One thing worth mentioning is that people with brain injury are prone to challenging behavior. This is why you should also know more about ABA for Challenging Behavior Reduction and how it might help you. These ABA programs challenging behavior reduction can make a world of difference, and they can help speed up the process of recovery.

Early Stages

The first thing we should discuss is the early stages of severe traumatic brain injury recovery. The first of the traumatic brain injury recovery stages is a coma. And while it might seem scary, it is not always a bad thing. It can be a sign of a recovery process.

The patient will be unresponsive, and the brain will start with the healing process. As for the main characteristics, the patient will have no eye movement, and they will remain still during the stage.

After that, the patient will go into a vegetative stage. While many people believe that coma and vegetative stages of recovery are the same, they are completely different. The main difference is that the patient will regain some of the reflexes.

The vegetative state is followed by a minimally conscious state, where the patient will have limited awareness of their surroundings. It is also possible that the doctor will prescribe medicine to help the patient gain consciousness.

As soon as the patient is able to communicate with family members and doctors, they will move to the fourth stage which is post-traumatic amnesia.

  • Coma
  • Vegetative state
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Post-traumatic amnesia

Confusion, inability to remember things and maximal assistance are all possible in this stage. The confused agitated state is the fourth stage, and it is the last in the early recovery.

The Severity of the Injury

It is worth noting that not every brain trauma will go through all stages. And it all comes down to the injury itself, and how severe it was. After the trauma, there is a chance that swelling will appear in the brain, as well as bleeding and changes in the brain chemistry.

As the brain starts to heal and swelling decreases, the patient will start getting better and will start regaining consciousness. Moderate traumatic brain injury recovery and severe one will have a similar process, but the length will differ.

It is also worth noting that it is nearly impossible to predict the length of the recovery process, especially during the first four stages. Each person is unique, and they might need more or less time.

But the doctors will be able to make an assessment based on the recovery, scans, tests, and so on.

Later Stages

You should know that there are six more stages that the patient will need to go through after the initial ones. But they are often called later stages of recovery.

  • Confusion and inappropriate behavior
  • Confusion and appropriate behavior
  • Automatic with minimal assistance
  • Purposeful with standby assistance
  • Purposeful with assistance on request
  • Purposeful with modified independent assistance

As they continue getting better, they will need less and less assistance with day-to-day activities. Especially with later stages. But during the fifth and sixth stages of recovery, the patient will be confused and they might make inappropriate comments or responses that make no sense.

In the seventh stage, patients can follow a schedule and complete routines but with supervision. The eighth stage requires minimal assistance, and patients are able to communicate with other people. And as the situation improves they will be able to live independently as soon as they reach the last stage.

Recovery Process

It is essential to understand that the recovery process requires time. The first four stages can take a few months. And as soon as the patient is able to communicate and react, they will need to start with physical activities and therapies.

There are numerous traumatic brain injury recovery exercise programs they will need to follow. The doctor can help them with balance exercises as a way to improve balance, and range of motion, they can start with bicep curls, resistance bands, and other forms of physical therapy.

It is also crucial to follow their health parameters such as blood pressure and ensure that there are no long-term effects. But it is still something that can happen based on the situation.

Many experts agree that the majority of brain injury recovery occurs in the first two years. After that, almost all moderate to severe TBI survivors will be able to live in private residences. And over 70% of them are functionally independent.

Some patients take years to return to the condition prior to the accident, while there are those who will never feel the same. Especially if they experienced a severe TBI.

Possible Long-Term Impacts

It all comes down to the severity of the injury. And it is nearly impossible to predict potential long-term effects a patient might discover. Furthermore, each person is different, and there are no two identical injuries.

And this means that two people will react differently. The age of the patient will also play an important role in the recovery, and around 30% of survivors still require at least some amount of assistance even two years after the accident.

You should also know that half of the survivors are able to drive cars again, and the majority of them are able to continue with their everyday lives. The first six months are crucial for the recovery process, and it is also the time when you will notice significant progress.

So, it is crucial to remain positive and work on physical therapy, and anything else that can improve the condition.

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