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Predicting a recovery from a brain injury

A brain injury doesn't have to look severe in order to be disabling. In fact, nobody knows exactly why two people with apparently similar injuries can end up with two very different levels of impairment and different lingering problems long after the injury takes place.

It's also very difficult to predict with relative certainty how someone will recover after a brain injury because so many different areas of the brain can be impacted.

Often, you'll also hear people talk about a "window" of recovery time. However, it's now known that people can continue to recover for a lot longer than initially believed -- possibly even for the rest of their lifetime. It's just that recovery does tend to slow down significantly after certain points.

So, how can doctors make some sort of prediction about an individual's ability to recover from brain trauma?

No matter what the level of brain trauma the injury victim is experiencing, there are some guidelines you can follow:

1. Do not use the first two months after the injury to judge the injured person's eventual level of functionality. For the first couple of months after the injury the only thing that doctors can reasonably tell you is how long recovery may take and whether or not the lasting impairments are likely to be severe or mild.

2. You will have a clearer picture of what the future is going to be like after about 6 months. Part of that will show through the progress the individual is making and part has to do with the effort the individual is able to put into recovery. It's still too early to make decisions about the future.

3. Recovery begins to slow down after the first year. That's a good time to start assessing the individual's future needs and what it will take in order to help him or her enjoy life as much as possible.

Lawsuits over traumatic brain injuries often can't be settled until that first year milestone is reached because it's impossible to ask for an appropriate settlement amount until the victim, his or her family, the doctors and the attorney have some relative clarity about the ongoing difficulties the victim will face.

Source: Headway.org, "Rehabilitation after brain injury," accessed May 02, 2017

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