What is the prognosis for a person who has suffered a traumatic brain injury?

Brain injuries are often classified into one of three categories based upon the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) rating. These categories are mild, moderate and severe. Characteristics of each category are set forth below: (1) Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: + Definition: A patient with mild traumatic brain injury has had an acute, sudden event that has disrupted the function of the brain. A mild traumatic brain injury is usually manifested by at least one of the following symptoms: loss of consciousness, loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident, or any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused). These symptoms last less than 30 minutes in duration and patients have an initial Glascow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13-15. + Prognosis: Most individuals with a mild brain injury will not have any major functional deficits. There may be some long term impacts but they are typically more subtle such as headaches or cognitive or memory problems. (2) Moderate Brain Injury: + Definition: Brain injuries are classified as moderate when the GCS score is between 9 - 12 and with a loss of consciousness and/or post-traumatic amnesia of greater than 30 minutes but less than 24 hours and/or a skull fracture. + Prognosis: There may be long-term physical or cognitive deficits as a result of a moderate brain injury. Recovery will often depend on the type and location of the specific insults to the brain. Rehabilitation can often help to overcome some deficits and help provide skills to cope with any remaining deficits. (3) Severe Brain Injury: + Definition: A severe brain injury will present with a Glasgow Coma Scale score lower than 9 and will be accompanied by a loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia lasting more than 24 hours. + Prognosis: Severe brain injuries are very life- threatening. If the person lives, they will typically be faced with long-term physical and cognitive impairments. The range of the deficits can vary widely from a vegetative state to more minor impairments that may allow the person to still function dependently. The patient will require extensive rehabilitation to try to overcome some of the deficits and learn strategies to cope with others.
Michael J. Shevlin
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Specializing in medical malpractice and serious personal injury cases since 1994.