The 10 Stages of Recovery After a Traumatic Brain Injury

March 10, 2022

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause a lifetime of challenges and hardships. TBIs can be caused by car accidents, construction accidents, and pedestrian accidents. People who suffer from TBIs typically go through various stages of healing while recovering and undergoing rehabilitation. Below we discuss the Rancho Los Amigos Levels of Cognitive Functioning Scale, which discusses the 10 possible stages of recovery for TBI patients in Pennsylvania and elsewhere throughout the US.  

It is important to remember that not every person who is faced with a TBI will experience every stage listed here. Additionally, the length of time the recovery process takes for each person varies. That said, let’s take a brief look at what can be expected in some cases.  

Coma or Non-Responsive State

A coma is considered to be the deepest state of unconsciousness. A person in a coma lacks speech and communication and does not have any purposeful movement. Being in a coma is the first stage of recovery after a TBI as the brain actually begins to heal itself. Comas may occur as a result of the brain injury or they may be induced medically to help alleviate pressure caused by swelling. People have been known to remain in comas for days, weeks, and even years. 

Vegetative State

A patient in a vegetative state is no longer in the deepest state of unconsciousness. They may exhibit some neurological responses, such as a reaction to stimulation, and at times may appear to be awake. They may even be able to open and close their eyes. While still not truly conscious, a patient in a vegetative state has made progress. 

Minimally-Conscious State

Patients in a minimally conscious state have some awareness of their surroundings and people. It is normal for people in this stage to drift in and out of consciousness. A physician may at this point prescribe medication to help the brain become more consistently stimulated, leading to full consciousness. 

Post-Traumatic Amnesia

Post-traumatic amnesia can cause a patient to become aggressive or act inappropriately. Often, they are suffering from two different kinds of amnesia. The first, retrograde amnesia, is the inability to remember events from the past. The second type, anterograde amnesia, is the inability to form new memories. The patient is confused and does not know where they are, how they got there, or what is happening to them. This stage becomes resolved when the patient begins to consistently remember what happens from day to day. 

Confused with Inappropriate Behaviors

Focusing is difficult for patients in this late stage of TBI recovery, and it may be difficult for them to respond appropriately to others. They are typically easily confused by others and their surroundings and say things that do not make sense. 

Confused with Appropriate Behaviors

Patients at this stage are able to carry on short conversations and follow simple commands. Their memory is still faulty and their focus is still impeded. Perhaps most importantly, they are not aware that they suffer from these impairments and keeping them safe may be an issue. 

Automatic and Appropriate Stage

While a patient at this stage has made significant progress, they are still unable to live independently. They can typically follow a schedule and complete some daily living activities with minimal supervision. The most positive aspect of this stage is that the patient is usually able to start receiving rehabilitation therapies. 

Purposeful and Appropriate with Standby Assistance

The TBI patient at this stage has had significant improvement in their memory and awareness of the world around them. While they still have areas of concern, such as how they handle the unexpected, they may be able to return home to live with minimal assistance. This often depends on their coping skills and rehabilitation progress.

Purposeful and Appropriate with Standby Assistance on Request

A patient at this stage is nearing the end of their recovery process. They are able to complete daily living tasks while handling expected and unexpected occurrences. They can ask for help as needed.

Purposeful and Appropriate with Modified Independence

Stage 10 patients are considered to have made a full recovery. They are able to multitask, plan ahead, and adjust themselves to handle the unexpected when it occurs. While they may still suffer cognitive issues, they are typically able to compensate and do well in life. When necessary, they are able to participate in outpatient neuro services.

Speak with a Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI in Pennsylvania, schedule a consultation with one of the experienced attorneys at our firm. We can be reached by calling 888-777-7098 or via our contact page. For your convenience, we have five different office locations in Allentown, Bethlehem, Doylestown, Stroudsburg, and Easton.