There are rarely cut-and-dried answers when it comes to determining the prognosis of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially during the time immediately following the injury. Because brain injuries are complex, and because no two brain injuries are exactly the same, a long-term prognosis may take many months—or even years—to determine. That being said, there are several factors that specialists look at to make generalizations regarding prognosis. These include:
- The length and the severity of coma
- The location and size of traumas
The Length and Severity of Coma
The amount of time that a patient spends in a coma often has a direct link to both post-traumatic amnesia and recovery time. To that end, specialists often look at the length of a coma and its severity within the first few hours after injury. Coma that lasts a few seconds to a few minutes usually results in minor post-traumatic amnesia and a recovery that reaches a plateau after a few days or weeks. A coma that last weeks usually results in post-amnesia that lasts months and a recovery that plateaus over months and years.
The Location and Size of Traumas
The location and the size of the trauma will also factor into the long-term outcome. The location of the injury will specifically determine the type of impairment, as certain areas of the brain control specific cognitive and behavior processes.
Putting it All Together
In a nutshell, the more severe the injury, the longer the recovery period. The longer the recovery period, the more long-term effects are likely. It’s imperative to reduce swelling in the brain as quickly as possible following the injury, as once swelling is minimized damaged brain cells will begin to function, to some degree or another, once again. Areas of the brain that undergo permanent damage are compensated for, to a certain extent, by other undamaged areas of the brain.