Traumatic brain injury causes a number of minor to serious complications that typically require both immediate and ongoing, long-term treatment. While the first stages of treatment for TBI involve sustaining life and preventing further injury, chronic care requires a combination of rehabilitation programs and assistive technologies.
Most rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury is aimed at overcoming, minimizing or working through disabilities so patients can live as independently as possible.
Acute Treatment for TBI
Immediately after the incident that has caused traumatic brain injury (which can include physical abuse or a serious fall), patients are generally rushed to the hospital for immediate, acute treatment of TBI.
During acute treatment, medical professionals will:
- Check for and surgically remove life-threatening blood clots
- Clear patients' airways
- Medicate patients (to calm them, prevent seizures or otherwise prevent further injury)
- Monitor and surgically relieve high levels of intracranial pressure (the pressure caused by the buildup of excess brain fluid in the skull)
- put patients on life support systems, if necessary
- Once patients are stable, they will be transferred to subacute TBI treatment centers.
Subacute TBI Treatment
At these specialized care facilities, medical staff will fully evaluate the patient's impairments, disabilities and probability of recovery. Additionally, doctors will outline a course of appropriate treatments, helping patients and their families build the right team of medical professionals necessary for rehabilitation and chronic TBI treatment.
Although most traumatic brain injury patients enter subacute treatment centers in shock or a state of post-traumatic amnesia, they leave these facilities ready to live independently, live with home care or move onto to long-term care centers.
Patients with mild to moderate TBI spend little, if no time in subacute treatment centers. In contrast, those with severe traumatic brain injury usually spend anywhere from 5 to 10 years getting critical care in subacute treatment facilities.
Chronic Treatment and Long-Term Rehabilitation
Because the complications of TBI can cause lifelong impairment, patients will need ongoing treatment in the form of:
- Assistive technologies (These include any device, ranging from a wheelchair to a specialized keyboard, that facilitates perception, comprehension and/or mobility.)
- Counseling and/or therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
Keep in mind that patients' individual complications and conditions will vary depending on their:
- Co-morbid conditions (other medical issues existing with the primary condition)
- Severity of TBI
- Type of TBI
- Being able to socialize
- Overcoming low self-esteem, depression or other emotional issues
- Re-learning to speak and otherwise communicate
- Walking again