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What are the basics of brain injury recovery?

The most important time following a brain injury's emergency treatment is going to be the following few weeks. These weeks will be when the brain adjusts, swells, bleeds or changes its own chemistry levels. The brain tissues will react, and the person suffering the injury will be affected.

It's hard to say what outcome a patient will have at first, because the injury can change over time. If a person was badly injured, then swelling may prevent them from opening their eyes or even being aware of their surroundings. However, as the brain is relieved of the swelling, it's possible for the person to awaken, start normal sleep cycles, respond or even follow commands.

The initial coma, in this case, is when the patient is completely unconscious. A person in a coma won't respond to sounds or stimuli, and he can't show emotions or communicate. Unlike a coma, a vegetative state is when the person is moving through sleep-wake cycles but only briefly orients to sounds or visual stimuli. Following that, a person may become minimally conscious, which is when the person can reach for objects, respond, vocalize sometimes or show emotion.

Once a patient wakes up, there can be confusion. Symptoms like anxiety, nervousness, frustration, restlessness and agitation can take place as the patient tries to orientate him or herself to the situation. Inconsistent behaviors like this are common as the patient heals; sometimes, this stage lasts only a few weeks, while other people may suffer from the symptoms longer.

It's only during the following weeks that a patient's state can really be recognized and understood. Before this, settling a case for negligence is possible, but it would need to consider all possible outcomes for the patient.

Source: MSKTC, "Understanding TBI: Part 3 - The Recovery Process," Thomas Novack, accessed Jan. 25, 2016

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