Traumatic Brain Injury: The Recovery Process

Is recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) possible? How long will your loved one need in order to heal from a serious head trauma? The answers to these questions about the TBI recovery process often depend on the type of TBI that a person has suffered.

The recovery process simply is not a uniform one. Concussions, for instance, are a mild form of TBI. The recovery process is relatively brief. However, if a person suffers a more severe form of TBI, the person may face a lengthy recovery process.

If you or your loved one recently suffered a TBI in New York or New Jersey, you should learn more about the head injury recovery process and the individual needs of patients. If you have additional questions or concerns, an experienced brain injury attorney from Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., can assist you.

Brain Injury Stages and the Path Toward Recovery

Our law firm regularly assists clients in New York and New Jersey who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. From working with a broad range of TBI victims and their families, we know that brain injury symptoms vary greatly among, and many different factors can affect an individual’s recovery.

According to Northeastern University’s Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center, the recovery process depends significantly on the severity of the brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries typically are classified as being in one of three groups:

Mild TBI – This level of severity includes concussions. A brief loss of consciousness – anywhere from seconds to minutes – typically accompanies the injury. In most mild TBI cases, the patient has normal brain imaging results.

Moderate TBI – A person with this level of severity may experience up to 24 hours of lost consciousness. Victims typically have abnormal brain imaging results.

Severe TBI – This level of brain injury severity often results in the loss of consciousness or a coma for more than 24 hours as well as abnormal brain imaging results.

Common Stages of Recovery Following a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

According to a report from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), a national center that provides information about catastrophic injuries, severe TBIs typically fall within four subcategories, or stages.  Those stages are:

  • Coma – The person is unconscious and unable to respond to any visual or aural stimulation. People in comas also cannot communicate or convey emotions. In this state, the person is not awake.
  • Vegetative state – The person is awake. However, he or she has no awareness of the surrounding environment.
  • Persistent vegetative state – This is a vegetative state that has lasted for more than one month.
  • Minimally responsive state – The person is in neither a coma nor a vegetative state. The person may be able to identify aural or visual stimulation and occasionally respond to commands or reach for objects. Additionally, a person in this state may be able to vocalize and show emotion.

These stages tend to result from swelling, bleeding and changes in brain chemistry that affect the injured person’s brain after a TBI. Even if a person sustains a TBI, and his or her eyes remain closed for an extended period, brain swelling will decrease and blood flow will improve. With these shifts in the brain, the functioning of the brain may improve.

How Long Does Recovery Take After a TBI?

Typically, after a person suffers a severe TBI, the recovery will take at least six months. For many head trauma victims, the recovery process never truly comes to an end. While patients can and often do improve with time, many experience long-term or permanent disabilities.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) explains that doctors typically use the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) to classify a head injury outcome and the likely process of traumatic brain injury recovery. The following are some examples of outcomes for different severities of head trauma:

Mild head injury (GOS score of 13-15)

The person typically enjoys a complete recovery. Although their condition eventually improves, many of these head trauma victims experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and irritability for days and weeks after the injury.

Moderate head injury (GOS score of 9-12)

About 60 percent of people with this type of TBI make a “positive recovery,” according to the AANS. Around 25 percent will experience a “moderate degree of disability” for the rest of their lives. In about 7 to 10 percent of these cases, people succumb to their injuries or remain in a persistent vegetative state.

Severe TBI (GOS score of 8 or lower)

Only about 25 percent to 33 percent of these TBI victims experience what the AANS describes as positive outcomes. In nearly 20 percent of these cases, victims have permanent moderate to severe disabilities, and around 33 percent of them do not survive the initial injury.

Our Experienced Brain Injury Lawyers Serve New York and New Jersey

Even in brain injury cases with the best outcomes, patients still suffer serious physical and psychological harm, not to mention the financial costs of recovering from a TBI. Northwestern University reports that the lifetime costs of a brain injury patient’s treatment range from $85,000 to $3 million.

If another party’s negligence caused you or a loved one to suffer brain injury in New York or New Jersey, a brain injury attorney from our law firm can help. Contact Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., today for more information about how our firm can assist with your case.