A traumatic brain injury is caused by trauma to the head. This may be in a road traffic accident or the result of a fall. It can be sudden and dramatic and can change someone’s life, and that of their family, in an instant.
The extent to which someone recovers from a traumatic brain injury will depend on a number of factors. These include: the severity of the injury, the age of the person, their general health and fitness and the part of the brain that has been damaged.
Because a traumatic brain injury can have an impact on so many aspects of someone’s mental and physical abilities, treatment for traumatic brain injury can be a long and complex process. Individual cases are all very different but this article seeks to explain the different stages in treatment and recovery from traumatic brain injury and the different services involved. Having some information about brain injury and the hospital systems can help you to cope and maintain a sense of control if a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Emergency treatment after traumatic brain injury
When someone experiences a brain injury they need to get medical attention as soon as possible. The priority of emergency responders and paramedics will be to stabilise and manage the person’s condition. They will be taken to the nearest emergency department and may have other serious injuries so all of their injuries will be fully assessed. Immediate treatment will be prioritised based on the most urgent clinical need.
If someone is unconscious, they will need to have a tube inserted into their windpipe and connected to a ventilator to help them breathe. This allows oxygen to enter the bloodstream so that it can continue to reach the brain. They may have CT scans or MRI scans of their head to check for additional complications such as blood clots or bleeding on the brain.
Specialist neurosurgical unit
When their condition is stable they may be taken to a specialist neurosurgical unit. These are usually located in bigger hospitals in major cities, so the patient may be taken some distance by ambulance or helicopter.
Neurosurgery is a delicate and lengthy procedure carried out by skilled surgical teams. Operations are performed for many different types of traumatic brain injury and often require cutting through the skull. This can be a very frightening prospect for the family of someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, but operations on the head can be quite straightforward and the skull heals quickly.
The main factor affecting someone’s recovery from brain injury is the severity of the initial injury rather than the surgery.
After surgery, the person will spend some time in a high dependency unit/intensive care. They may take some time to regain consciousness due to a combination of their brain injury and the anaesthetic that they had for their operation.
The person will be moved to a general hospital ward after the emergency stage, when they require less intensive nursing.
Brain injury rehabilitation unit
The person may need several months, or even longer, of intensive inpatient treatment and rehabilitation. It is likely that they will be moved to a specialist brain injury rehabilitation unit. Here they will receive treatment for all aspects of their brain injury. This treatment includes medication, physiotherapy, building strength for mobility and balance, speech and language therapy and psychological support.
They will receive assessments on a regular basis to monitor developments in their cognitive and physical abilities.
When they no longer require nursing care, some people may be able to continue with their rehabilitation at home, while others will need specialist residential care.
Specialist residential care
Specialist residential care for people with traumatic brain injury may not be available locally. There are some centres of expertise in brain injury in the country (such as Northampton) and other specialist homes are available nearer larger populations. This means that the person may have to travel some distance to find the right residential care home in which to continue their rehabilitation.
At Richardson Care, we take a holistic and person-centred approach to rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury. We will assess the person’s needs and devise a care plan to support them and help them achieve their personal goals.
A combination of many factors provides the therapy and support that enable the individual to continue along their rehabilitation journey. These include the following:
- A multi-disciplinary team of neuro specialists
- Experienced Homes Managers and Clinical & Operational Officer
- Care staff/activity support workers with compassion and experience in supporting people with complex cognitive and physical needs
- A warm, welcoming and spacious environment where service users can feel ‘at home’
- A wide range of enjoyable and meaningful activities to support their well-being and help them to develop skills of daily living
- Supported home visits to help maintain family relationships as well as supporting the family of the service user
Someone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury is likely to require life-long rehabilitation. The exact nature of this will vary according to their brain injury and any degenerative conditions they may have.
Some people may be able to return home or move into supported living after a period of residential care. Others may need a ‘home for life.’ At Richardson Care we provide short-term, long-term residential care and rehabilitation as well as a home for life, supporting people along their rehabilitation journey.