Stages of recovery
Are there stages of recovery from a head injury and if so what are they?
When the patient is asleep after a head injury is called coma or unconscious. Both mean the same thing but the coma description is the more usual. It may take days or weeks to move out of coma stage into a less coma stage. The patient rarely moves abruptly from being in a coma to being properly awake. When the patient first starts to take notice of things around him, he or she is likely to be quite confused about where and why. The patient at this stage is likely to ask you again and again what happened to him or her. At this stage the patient is starting to wake up, but still not able to remember things that have happened probably from one minute to the next. This stage is also where the patient is confused, repeats himself, and forgets things. This might last for a short time only, for days, weeks or months. Usually the confused stage lasts longer the longer the period of coma has been. These two after effects of head injury, coma and period of confusion are used as one of the ways of describing the severity of the injury. In general the longer the person has been unconscious and the deeper the stage of coma at the time of admission, more badly the hurt is. Obviously the worse the injury is the longer the patient is going to take to recover. Almost without exception one can be sure that the patient will be better sometime in the future, but how much better is another matter and may depend on:
- Severity of the injury.
- Whether there is further brain damage.
- Minimizing stress.
- Effective Rehabilitation
- Management of returns to school or work.
How does the brain heal itself:
It is likely that most of the brain cells which have been damaged will not get back to useful work. The majority of improvement that is seen after a head injury is due to reorganization of the brain undamaged. Using the large reserves of brain function that we all have, intact areas take over from those that are no longer functional. Obviously if these reserves of brain have been reduced by previous injuries, or by the natural loss of nerve cells with age, recovery will be less complete.