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

When you suffer a head injury resulting in brain damage, there can be a number of effects, both physical and mental. These may be temporary or more lasting and patients may completely recover, or only partially regain the level of function they had before the accident.

Exactly how long recovery takes will depend on the nature and severity of the brain injury and the type and quality of medical treatment and rehabilitation care you receive.

It can take up to 6 months before doctors handling your care can make a realistic estimate of how much function you will recover and how long this will take. It is typical for patients to see a significant improvement over the first 2 years after a brain injury, but many people continue to see improvements for years afterward.

What to expect in the months and years after a brain injury

Although each person’s recovery will depend on their own unique circumstances, the following timeline may be helpful in giving you some ideas of what to expect in the first few months and years after a brain injury.

0-6 months

In the immediate aftermath of a brain injury, you may need neurosurgery and are likely to spend time in an intensive care unit (ICU) and/or high dependency unit (HDU) depending on the seriousness of the injury.

Rehabilitation care will normally start as early as possible as quick intervention can make a big difference to the long-term outcome. This will usually involve practicing basic things, such as sitting up in bed, controlling, developing and strengthening movement, and working on posture, balance and spatial awareness.

Before being discharged from the hospital, medical staff will assess what remaining issues a patient has, both physically and cognitively, and decide what kind of further rehabilitation support is required. The patient will then normally be referred to specific rehabilitation services for their further care.

6-12 months

At around 6 months after a brain injury, doctors should have a fairly clear picture of what level of recovery a patient can expect and if they will benefit from further rehabilitation services. Most patients will be living back at home or in a supported living facility by this point and may be accessing care services as an outpatient as well as having some degree of support in their home or living facility.

1-2 years

Many patients will continue to achieve significant results in terms of regaining function up to the two-year mark. The aim will usually be to get the patient living as independently as possible and many people who suffer a minor brain injury will have completely recovered by this point.

2 years+

For most people, their recovery will start to level off after the first 2 years, but some degree of recovery can often still be expected after this point and some types of continuing rehabilitation exercises may still be recommended. Patients with serious on-going issues should ideally have had provisions for their care needs to be arranged by this point and will hopefully be well on the way towards adapting to their situation.

Get the support you need for your recovery

While much of the support you need can be accessed on the NHS, it may be necessary or more convenient to use private services to aid your recovery. This can include paying for medical care, as well as physical therapy, cognitive therapy, mental health care, on-going care support and more. At the same time, you may also need to pay for adaptations to your home and special equipment, as well as potentially losing income if you have to take time off, or give up, work.

These expenses are one of the main reasons many people who suffer a brain injury choose to pursue compensation. This can help to ensure you get the care and support you need to achieve an independent and fulfilling life after your injury. If you have suffered a brain injury that wasn’t your fault, it is, therefore, a good idea to consult a specialist brain injury claims solicitor to discuss your options for pursuing a claim.

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Photo Credit: jesse orrico

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