How long does it take to recover from a brain injury?

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When yourself or a loved one suffers from a traumatic brain injury one of the first questions asked is, “how long will it take to recover?” 

There isn’t one right answer for this question. It varies from patient to patient and will depend on how severe the injury is and what treatment is deemed best by the doctors. 

Progress in the medical world is being made every year when it comes to treating brain injuries and aiding in the patients long term recovery.

Moderate Brain Injury

For a moderate injury such as concussion the healing time can be between seven to ten days.

Concussion is caused by the brain hitting the skull or a strain on neural tissue due to excessive force.

Concussion can be caused by many things including a bang to the head or from whiplash during a car accident. 81-92% of concussion patients do not lose consciousness during the incident and symptoms can start immediately after the injury or up to several days afterwards.

Although most patients recover quickly, some do go on to develop Post Concussion Syndrome. Doctors are not sure why this happens but recovery from Post Concussion Syndrome can take months or even years. 

To help speed up your recovery from Concussion you should – 

  • Reduce screen time – Bright screens and eyestrain are known to make symptoms worse. 
  • Limit exposures to loud sounds. 
  • Avoid unnecessary movement of head and neck – This is to allow the brain to heal.  
  • Rest & hydration – You need to give your body a chance to heal. Rest is of utmost importance. 

Severe Brain Injury

A more severe brain injury can take a lot longer to recover from and is normally full of one step forward and two steps back. The most significant recovery normally happens within the first six months although patients can linger at one stage for a significant period of time or may never progress from a certain stage. 

Coma – The patient is unconscious. They are unresponsive and cannot talk or respond to sound. Their brain is recovering from swelling and/or bleeding. 

Vegetative State – The patient remains unconscious but will normally have sleep/wake cycles. You may be able to observe reflexes and eyes may involuntarily open. Loud noises may startle them but these movements are not intentional. 

Minimally Conscious State – The patient will begin to regain consciousness. They may respond to stimulus. They might be able to follow commands and speak. They may also be able to track objects with their eyes. 

Full Consciousness – The patient is now fully awake. Their recovery may now speed up. Many patients suffer with memory difficulties including post traumatic amnesia. They may be agitated easily and restless. 

Full recovery may take many years. Statistics show that at two years post injury – 

  • 30% of patients still require in home help
  • 30% of patients are still unable to return to work. 
  • 50% of patients are able to drive again.

Although doctors still do not know why a brain injury varies from person to person they do know that the more severe the injury, the longer the recovery is and that there is a higher chance that the patient will never fully recover.

Many factors affect the road to recovery. The age of the patient, the history of their health before the injury and environmental factors will all come into play. 

Progress in the medical world is being made every year when it comes to treating brain injuries and aiding in the patients long term recovery. In the meantime there are lots of medications and rehabilitation therapies that are used to help the patient reintegrate back into their life.  

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