What Treatment is Necessary After a Brain Injury
Immediate medical care after a brain injury is critical to recovery and possibly preventing long-term complications. However, since no two brain injuries are the same, the necessary treatment can vary based on the person and the severity of the traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Treatment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
See a doctor as soon as possible after a mild TBI. It can significantly impact many areas of daily life and can cause headaches, fatigue, memory problems, mood swings, and an inability to focus your thoughts. Treatment often consists of:
- Physical therapy to help with balance and movement problems.
- Occupational therapy to help you function better at home and work.
- Therapists and other medical experts assist with emotional and thinking problems.
- Medications to ease symptoms, such as pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicine, sleep aids, and muscle relaxants. These types of medications can help, but they are not a prominent part of treatment.
Most mild TBIs heal entirely in several weeks or months. However, for some, symptoms can continue for years.
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
Moderate to severe TBIs require emergency medical treatment, as secondary damage can occur due to bleeding, inflammation, or reduced oxygen supply. ACT scan or MRI is often needed to determine the extent of the damage and the treatment required. Surgery may be required to:
- Relieve Pressure: Blood, swelling, and other things in the skull can increase pressure. In some cases, a hole must be surgically made in the skull to relieve pressure, or a shunt or a drain must be added to allow excess fluid to drain.
- Repair Skull Fractures: Removing debris, and pieces of the skull or repairing severe fractures may be necessary.
- Remove Blood Clots or Pools: Large hematomas (clotted blood) can form if there is bleeding in the brain or between it and the skull. Hematomas can add pressure and damage brain tissue if they are not removed.
Moderate to severe TBI patients may remain in the hospital’s Inpatient Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until stable. Medications may be prescribed, such as pain relievers, anticoagulants to prevent blood clots, anticonvulsants to prevent seizures, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants to increase alertness, or sedatives for sleep or to depress the central nervous system.
Rehabilitation is critical to prevent further disabilities and increase a person’s independence. A wide range of rehabilitation that may be necessary, from relearning basic skills, such as walking or talking, to social support and psychiatric care. In a rehabilitation hospital, a treatment program is designed specifically for each patient’s needs and changes as their needs change. Some can return to their state before the TBI, but others will have permanent impairments and may need lifelong care.
Lifestyle Changes That Assist Recovery
Some examples of lifestyle changes that can assist the brain in recovering include:
- Looking to friends and family for support.
- Getting adequate sleep.
- Avoiding overexertion.
- Notifying doctors of any new symptoms and writing down any daily issues with concentration or memory.
- Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids.
- Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and smoking.
- Avoiding caffeine and energy drinks.
- Returning to normal activities but avoiding anything that can cause another head injury.
- Avoiding mental stress.
With patience and time, it is possible for many brain injuries to heal.