Brain injury is unexpected and can happen to anybody. The person’s recovery depends on the severity of the head injury.
Loss of consciousness can also occur in mild brain injuries but it is only for a short time. If the loss of consciousness occurs for more than 24 hours and there are signs of injury based from in the neuroimaging tests, then this is classified as severe brain injury.
According to the Brain injury Association of America, severe brain injury may cause the person to experience deep sleep where one cannot be aroused nor can he respond purposefully. He has no sleep or wake cycles resulting in a coma or longer period of unconsciousness.
There are different disorders of consciousness a person with brain injury experiences.
- Vegetative state. The patient is unaware but has moments of waking up and may occasionally respond to stimuli.
- Persistent vegetative state. He stays in a vegetative state after 4 weeks to one year following a traumatic brain injury. He may also have sleep- wake cycles but lacks awareness and does not respond reflexively.
- Minimally conscious state. The patient has intermittent periods of wakefulness and awareness but still unable to communicate consistently. He can respond to simple commands. He can also say or gesture yes or no.
- Locked in syndrome. He can only move his eyes. He has awareness of his surroundings but can only communicate through his eyes as there is complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles except for the eyes.
- Brain Death. The patient is considered not alive anymore as all the brain activity and functions have already ceased irreversibly.
Symptoms of Severe Head Injury
A person can incur an open or closed head injuries. Both types of injuries will manifest symptoms that will determine the severity of the brain injury.
There are also different factors that will impact the severity of brain injury and recovery. First will be the impaired functions and abilities that a person with severe head injury will have. Next will be the severity of the initial head injury of the patient. Another factor will be the rate of physiologic recovery of the patient. Also we can also note the areas of function that aren’t affected by the severe brain injury and the available resources that can help the patient’s recovery.
Loss of Consciousness
A person with severe brain injury has lost consciousness of greater than 6 hours. He has a Glasgow Coma Scale of 3 to 8. Glasgow coma scale is neurological scale used to measure a person’s level of consciousness.
A person with moderate to severe brain injury experience cognitive difficulties with attention, concentration, memory, speed of processing, language processing and impulse.
Speech and language are also affected by not being able to understand the spoken word, difficulty in speaking and slurred speech which makes the patient difficult to be understood.
They also have difficulty interpreting sense of touch, temperature, movement and discrimination. Vision is also affected with partial to total loss of vision, weakness of eye muscles and involuntary eye movements.
Loss of Coordination
Loss or decrease of hearing may also manifest in a person with severe head injury. Sense of balance and coordination is also affected. Seizures may also happen with disruption in consciousness and motor movements.
The person with severe brain injury may have to stay in the hospital for further treatment and observation. He may require rehabilitation treatment to help in his recovery.
Surgical treatment may be necessary to prevent further injury to the brain and to help reduce bleeding, swelling and pressure.