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.

Traumatic Brain Injury Booklet CoverBrain Injury: A guide for family and friends

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


  1. Julia Braddock says:

    The damage in your brain can’t heal but your brain can learn new ways to work like it did

  2. Julia Braddock says:

    Katrina my daughter is in a coma from a head injury she has swelling on her brain and bleeding the doctor’s can put a shunt in his head it will take the fluids off his head now my daughter is breathing on her own but doctors still think she won’t come out of coma and will be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life but I have faith she will fight her way back to me I hope your husband gets better

  3. Judith Adesanya says:

    I had a trauma over 20 years ago. I have been having severe Pain in the middle part of my head. Please what can I do

  4. My husband is currently in a coma from Tramtic Brain injury and it’s only been 30 hours and his mother is already making funeral arrangements!!!! Is it me or is she nuts?

  5. Katrina white says:

    My boyfriend Jeffrey Williams is in Ccu at Bellevue hospital and has been there for two weeks with a severe brain injury his brain is swollen and how can they shrink brain swollen inflammation I look up a female hormone progesterone that help women heal from brain swelled and how would I begin to explain to doctors about this research trail they can try

  6. I was in a motorbike crash now I can’t move my left led or arm without help from my right side or someone else helping.will I ever recover? The accident was August last year .is there anything I can do to help?help plz

  7. 3 months ago I was underneath a lot of stress
    And i felt something snap in my brain
    After Wood I felt slow I can barley drive good
    What has happen to me I can remember everything but I feel slow around people
    Please help me

  8. Do you think my brain will heal i had a steel cage weight like 14lb fall on my head my headache never gone away since accident im in therapy butt im worry going on 5 month

  9. Marlene-Nancy Gard says:

    MRI shows unusual volume loss of frontal lobe and some of parietal lobes.
    Am 75 MI – six stents- only warning pain in left scapular.
    Three months ago “stroke like” incident – slurred speech.
    Left side balance compromised. numbness, tingling all left side.
    Head pain -left side forehead painful to touch and prominent.

    Am retired SRN – qualified at age 40 after being legal secretary, mother of two.

    Was Involved head-on collision at age 8 – did not attend hospital – was unconscious approx one hour.

    Question – N0 medical attention at 8. Can other parts of the brain take over function of the frontal and parietal lobe.

    Have always on,y slept 4/5 hours. Lateral thinker. A cellist at 11. Artist.
    Spontaneous. Never depressed. Ca be very sad but i

  10. Yeah i don’t know exactly what happened but about 9 months ago i had an ” event ” which left me really dizzy with blurry vision. It seems like about half my problem is my inner ear and vestibular system, and the other half is with my brain. I have pretty bad cognitive dysfunction and frankly have lost the ability to think clearly. The medical term is brain fog but thats kind of vague. IF any one has any info on this or if i’ll ever get to feeling any better that would be great! My brother in law has had a pretty serious concussion and we can really relate to each other on a lot of stuff. ITs just crazy how i just woke up one day feeling like this and i don’t understand how people can have serious traumatic brain injuries and like heal or get better where as me i just don’t feel any better at all since I’ve had this start.

  11. Richard Johnson says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. I’m 11+ years, and the healing/recovery process is still going well.

  12. I’m 19 years old and I got into Car accident along with my twin and two other people I flew out the car and hit my head first. No one else got hurt but me, I was in a coma for a week. I was in on life support. I don’t know why I’m typing this… but goodbye,

  13. Stacey Thao says:

    Can a brain injury heal if the patient was in a coma for a week? Please help give me an answer. *Thanks, Stacey*

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