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How Does a Brain Injury Heal?


No two people are alike in how fast they improve or how much they recover. In order to choose a care plan, the health care team must make some prediction about how much recovery can be expected. The factors considered when predicting recovery can include the following:
• How long the patient was in a coma.
• The severity of the brain injury.
• The age of the injured person.
• Whether or not there were other injuries that might affect recovery.
Rancho Scale level.
• How long it takes for the person to begin remembering events on a day-to-day basis.
• How long they have post-coma amnesia.

The Healing Power of the Brain

Most scientific studies agree that, unlike a broken bone or a cut on the skin, damaged brain tissue does not mend itself.

However, in some cases, uninjured parts of the brain are able to take over or compensate for injured parts, or the brain learns to re-route information around the damaged areas.

Recovery is also possible once swelling goes down or blood has been absorbed into the system. Both processes can take several weeks and show signs that some of the damage may have been temporary.


Making Decisions About Medical Care

As early as 24 hours after your loved one’s injury, the health care team may begin talking about the choices you must face about the next phase of care for your loved one. These choices may involve different options for rehabilitation, transitional care, a skilled nursing facility, or possibly home care.

While these decisions may feel rushed to you, experts know that early treatment can maximize recovery and minimize long-term problems.

Brain injury rehabilitation can begin before or after your loved one fully emerges from a coma. Your health care team can help you make these decisions. Some guidelines for making your decision are on page “Where Will the Journey Go From Here?.”

A Recovery Timetable

The exact amount of recovery is not predictable at the time of injury. Each injury and rate of recovery are unique. Recovery from a severe brain injury often involves a long process of treatment and rehabilitation which can last a lifetime.

What is Brain Injury Rehabilitation

The goal of rehabilitation is to help the injured person regain the most independent level of functioning possible. The actual rehabilitation process is different for everyone.

The kinds of treatments used, how long they last, and in what setting they are provided, will depend on each person’s specific injury and needs.

Brain injury rehabilitation involves medical treatments and exercises to improve memory, thinking ability, behavior, coordination, and speech. Rehabilitation also involves learning new ways to make up for abilities that have been changed forever due to brain injury. Rehabilitation also includes family education. You and your entire family must learn about brain injury so you can understand the changes in your loved one’s behavior and personality.

44 Year old woman who survived 2 week coma

“I’ve got a lot of things to do. I have to rediscover life because it has completely changed. In a sense, it’s been tragic; in another sense, it’s been a blessing. I’m going to be a better person when all of this is over.”

— 44-year-old mother of three who survived a two-week coma after being injured in a head-on collision.

Brain Injury: A guide for family and friends

Traumatic Brain Injury Booklet Cover

Table of Contents

What is a Brain Injury?
How Bad Is It?
How the Brain Functions
Common Problems During Early Recovery
The Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
Understanding Coma
How Does an Injured Brain Heal?
How You Can Help With Recovery
• Where Will the Journey Go From Here?
How Will I Ever Get Through This?
Where to Go for Help
• Books for Families Coping With Brain Injury