Diagnosed with TBI, What's Next? Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

diagnosed with TBI

A traumatic brain injury is the result of a severe hit or jolt to the head that causes damage to the brain. The resulting injuries fall under three categories of symptoms: physical, cognitive, emotional/behavioral. 

These symptoms may heal and dissipate over time, depending on the severity of the injury. A severe head injury, however, may take much longer to heal and may cause some persistent symptoms.

A traumatic brain injury diagnosis can be especially worrisome in young children. Brain damage that occurs while the brain is still developing may cause developmental delays and cognitive decline. Babies that experience some form of domestic violence may develop shaken baby syndrome.

A patient must always consult their health care provider after sustaining a brain injury before returning to normal activities.

What to Expect After Sustaining a TBI?

When an individual is diagnosed with TBI, it is difficult to say how long it will take for them to make a complete recovery. This is because the brain is a sensitive and complicated organ, and there are many variables that can influence the rate of recovery.

Details about injuries and other factors such as the severity of the injury, the area of the brain that is damaged, the patient’s medical history, the patient’s attitude towards rehabilitation, the quality of life of the patient after their rehabilitation and more are critical in affecting the outcome of their recovery.

The brain is capable of healing itself by growing new individual cells to replace damaged ones. However, much of the “recovery” is actually the brain finding new ways to bypass recently broken connections. 

This means that healthy parts of the brain take over the functions of damaged areas. For example, an individual who sustains a traumatic brain injury may have to relearn how to walk, talk, or drive. This is because the parts of the brain that control these functions may have been damaged.

What Impact Will a Mild, Moderate, or Severe TBI Have on a Patient’s Life?

Let’s take a look at how different TBI severity levels may affect daily living after being diagnosed with TBI.


A mild injury or a concussion may not result in the same degree of symptoms as a severe injury. However, it must still be treated with importance. Patients that experience a blow to the head that does not result in a loss of consciousness may not need the same amount of medical care as a patient who does experience a loss of consciousness.

Patients who suffer from a mild traumatic brain injury or a sports-related concussion may need to see a concussion injury specialist for a consultation and undergo neuropsychological tests or even magnetic resonance imaging tests to verify that there aren’t any blood clots or skull fractures.

In the best-case scenario, an individual that experiences a mild traumatic brain injury will make a recovery over time or may easily accommodate the side effects and symptoms. This means that the affected individual knows how to properly care for their injuries.

In some cases, an individual with a mild injury will return to their daily activities without realizing the possible extent of their symptoms. A mild brain injury may still hinder individuals from accomplishing cognitive tasks.

Moderate to Severe

A severe or moderate injury can have long-lasting effects that might be permanent. Although recovery is possible through rehabilitation, most people who suffer from TBI will have to adapt to a new way of daily living. This can be difficult and present many challenges.

Moderate brain injuries can cause physical or mental disabilities that may be permanent. Patients with TBIs often have other injuries as well. These can compound the effects and lead to additional disabilities.

There can be many challenges that come with traumatic brain injury, especially when it comes to work and everyday tasks. Skills and abilities that were once easy may now be more difficult.

Patients with moderate to severe TBI may experience some memory loss or may experience other types of cognitive difficulties, causing them to rely heavily on their families or loved ones. These hindrances can cause a lot of emotional trauma for the patient.

New studies have also shown that patients that sustain a traumatic brain injury, whether it be mild or severe, have an increased dementia risk that is much higher than that of an individual that does not have a TBI.

Treatments For a Traumatic Brain Injury

A mild traumatic brain injury may only require rest and some over-the-counter pain medication for symptom recovery. However, patients with mild injuries should still be monitored for worsening or persistent symptoms.

A doctor will inform you when it is appropriate to start doing normal activities again. Usually, it is best to take it easy for a few days or until your health care providers allow you to do more. Relative rest, which means not engaging in cognitive or physical activities, may make the symptoms worse. 

However, it is also not advisable to take complete rest and stop all mental and physical activity. Most people gradually go back to their regular routine.

Prompt Medical Care

The Brain Injury Association states that, following a brain injury, hospital treatment can vary from a quick neurological exam to longer-term, inpatient care. A patient’s length of stay in the hospital will depend on the severity and implications of the brain injury.

Emergency medical care for a moderate or severe TBI will focus on ensuring the person has enough oxygen supply, and an adequate blood supply, maintaining blood pressure/flow of blood and is protected from any further injury to the head or neck.

Patients who suffer from traumatic brain injuries may suffer from secondary injuries as well that may need treating. In an emergency department, doctors and other medical staff will focus on minimizing any secondary damage that has occurred that may be caused by reduced oxygen supply to the brain, brain bleeds, brain cell death, or inflammation.

Rehabilitation Process

Most people who have had traumatic brain injury will require some form of rehabilitation to improve their abilities to perform daily activities. Effective treatments may include relearning basic skills, such as walking or talking.

As previously mentioned, the initiation of treatment for people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury typically begins while they are still in the hospital. From there, they may be transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation unit, a residential treatment facility/medical center, or receive outpatient services.

The length and nature of the rehabilitation process vary from person to person and may result in different outcomes for people, depending on the severity of their injury and which parts of the brain were affected.

Some rehabilitation specialists and health care providers may include the following:

  • Occupational therapist – An occupational therapist is a medical professional who helps patients improve their ability to perform everyday activities. This may be done through rehabilitation or other therapeutic methods. Initial assessments will include neuropsychological tests and similar diagnostic tools.
  • Physical therapist – A TBI can impede someone’s ability to move and perform basic tasks. However, a physical activity program can help with these problems by relearning movement patterns and improving proper balance and walking. 
  • Physiatrist – This is a medical provider who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. This type of doctor oversees the entire rehabilitation process for patients with TBIs and manages any medical problems that may arise during the healing process. In addition, this doctor may prescribe medication as needed to help with the recovery process. 
  • Speech and language therapist – These are specialized therapists who can help individuals improve their communication skills and use assistive communication devices if necessary.

ICD-10 Coding for TBI

The International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision, or the ICD-10 is an international system used to categorize diseases and health conditions. It is designed to allow for consistency in coding practices across the globe.

It provides a common language that helps health professionals and researchers compare and share health information around the world.

The ICD-10 code for injuries to the head is S00-S09.

What To Keep in Mind When Recovering From a TBI

Recovery from a traumatic brain injury is often not linear. People may make progress and then have a setback, or they may stop making gains altogether. This is normal and can be due to new problems or stressors that arise. These may or may not be related to the brain injury itself.

Pre-existing mental health conditions may worsen after sustaining a traumatic brain injury or may cause a patient to experience new symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is why medical providers also take into account the patient’s psychiatric history as a risk factor in devising the most effective treatments.

Patients need to remember to be patient with themselves and their progress. Keeping a positive outlook helps to retain good mental status and deters the worsening of emotional difficulties.

Remember that success is relative. After an injury, we may still try to use the same standards to measure success as we did before the injury. This can lead to disappointment and frustration. Patients must find new means to measure success by.

Symptoms may change, and some symptoms that had not appeared initially may appear later on. Do not hide or minimize your symptoms or disabilities. Being honest with your condition is the best way to ensure you get the right and effective treatments.

Aside from a positive outlook towards potential treatments, individuals recovering from a brain injury need to keep in mind the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. A healthy individual is more likely to make an optimal recovery more quickly. This includes having a good balance of nutrients, and proper exercise at regular intervals.

Diagnosed With TBI? Help Is Available To You

If you or someone close to you has suffered a traumatic brain injury, we can get you the help you need.

The California Brain Injury Help Center provides support and resources to those affected by this type of injury. We can get you the medical and legal assistance you need and help you every step of the way toward healing and recovery.

Please call us at (866) 576-0936 for more information.

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