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Brain Injury Recovery Stages

| Jun 7, 2019 | Traumatic Brain Injury

Learn how the brain heals after a serious head injury…

The human brain is a remarkable thing, and doctors are still working to learn about how it changes, adapts, and heals — particularly after a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

The science in this area has made enormous advances in the last few decades. Still, people (including some doctors) tend to talk about “brain injury recovery stages” rather loosely, often using imprecise or informal terminology.

Some people, for example, may talk about “brain injury recovery stages” purely in terms of emotional recovery (indeed, many blog articles engage in that kind of discourse). Others may speak of a “coma.”

In today’s article, we hope to describe more precisely — but still in layman’s terms — the primary brain injury recovery stages as they have been defined in the medical literature. Understanding how the brain recovers from severe injury can offer hope to those whose recovery is still underway.

Stage One: Coma

During a coma, the patient is completely unconscious. They are very much alive, but they can’t speak or hear — neither perceive nor respond. Doctors and nurses may talk about the patient as being “asleep,” but during a coma, there is no sleep-wake activity.

Still, inside the brain, the first critical stages of recovery may well be underway. Patients typically emerge from the first stage and into the second gradually, manifesting meager signs of improvement along the way.

Stage Two: Minimally Conscious State

In this stage, the patient begins to regain consciousness, meaning he or she may be fleetingly aware of their surroundings and may also be able to respond to questions, commands, or stimuli.

Stage Three: Full Consciousness

It is during this stage when most patients will exhibit the greatest degree of brain injury recovery. Indeed, many patients show rapid improvement during the first six months after regaining full consciousness.

Patients in the third and early fourth stage may experience something known as post-traumatic amnesia (which some experts classify as a brain injury recovery stage all its own). During this period, the patient may struggle to retain memories from day to day. They may find themselves unable to remember where they are, who they’re talking to, or how they got there.

The experience of post-traumatic amnesia can be profoundly frustrating and disturbing, not only for the patient but also for his or her loved ones. It’s important to talk closely with health care providers you trust about the best way to engage with your loved one during post-traumatic amnesia.

Stage Four: Adaptation

By the time the patient reaches the fifth stage, he or she has likely achieved the majority of his or her recovery (though small strides may still be possible in the months and years to come).

With the bulk of recovery behind them, patients and their loved ones must now learn to adapt to any new limitations or disabilities. This process may involve physical, psychological, social, and environmental adaptations, as well as adaptive changes that may take place inside the brain.

The Stages of Brain Injury Recovery Are Not Always a Continuous Progression

While we have described the brain injury recovery stages chronologically, it is important to understand that the recovery process does not always unfold so linearly. A patient’s recovery may stall at certain stages, and some patients may even appear to slip between stages or regress. Some patients never make it to the next stage of recovery.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about realistic expectations, as well as his or her experience in successfully treating TBI patients in the past.

Talk to an Indianapolis Brain Injury Lawyer at Doehrman Buba Ring

If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury in Indiana and you believe someone else’s negligence might have contributed to the injury, we encourage you to contact our office as soon as possible. You may be entitled to financial compensation under the laws of our state.

We invite you to talk with an experienced Indianapolis brain injury lawyer at the law firm of Doehrman Buba Ring to learn more about your options.

Our firm will not charge you a fee unless we are successful in recovering compensation for your claim. To learn more, please contact Doehrman Buba Ring and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.