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What are the Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Stages?

Anyone can sustain a traumatic brain injury, but they are more likely to occur in car accidents, slip and falls, and other types of accidents. This type of injury is one of the most devastating people can sustain because the recovery process and the injury itself can be unpredictable. You may be wondering what the recovery process looks like for this type of injury, and we want to share the traumatic brain injury recovery stages with you.

Early Stages of Brain Injury Recovery

Right after the traumatic brain injury has occurred, there are early TBI stages the person may experience. They include:


person laying in a hospital bedA coma is a state of deep unconsciousness that can occur after a traumatic brain injury. This side effect could actually help the survivor because it could allow their brain to start the healing process without interruption from wakefulness. Sometimes it is necessary for a patient to be placed in a medically induced coma to minimize brain swelling and intracranial pressure.

Vegetative State

The next stage after a coma is the vegetative state. These states sometimes get put into the same category, but they are actually different states of consciousness. In a coma, a person is completely unresponsive, whereas in a vegetative state, a person has regained some of their reflexes.

Minimally Conscious State

brain scan

After the vegetative state, the next traumatic brain injury recovery stage is a minimally conscious state. Survivors may drift in and out of consciousness, and they may have a limited awareness of what is going on around them.

Post-Traumatic Amnesia

Once the injured individual starts to respond to instructions consistently or communicates in a clear way, they have entered the post-traumatic amnesia stage. These survivors may experience retrograde amnesia, which is where they cannot remember past events, or anterograde amnesia, which is where they cannot form new memories. During this stage, the injured person may display erratic, aggressive, or inappropriate behavior.

Later Stages of Brain Injury Recovery

These first few stages of brain injury recovery could last for a few months. The later traumatic brain injury recovery stages are unpredictable, and there is no way to tell how long survivors would be in any of these stages. They include:

Inappropriate Behaviors

brain scanIn this later stage, the injured person may have trouble focusing. They could be confused by their surroundings, and the responses to questions or commands may be inaccurate.


While patients in this stage could still be confused, they can follow commands and have short conversations. They may not be able to focus well and are unaware of their impairments.

Automatic and Appropriate

Once survivors reach the automatic part of traumatic brain injury recovery stage, they will be able to follow a schedule and do daily activities with supervision. They may still struggle with planning ahead, and they cannot live independently.


hospital bedAt this later stage, the injured person’s self-awareness and memory have improved significantly since their injury. They may still struggle with reaction times and social interactions. It is possible for them to live on their own with minimal help.

Purposeful with Assistance on Request

Injured people at this stage will be able to recognize and respond to other people’s needs. They can complete familiar and unfamiliar daily activities.

Purposeful with Modified Independence

At this final stage, injured people are functionally independent and have possibly made a full recovery. Their cognition is probably still slower than average, but they have come up with ways to compensate.

Now you know about the traumatic brain injury recovery stages. While some people make a full recovery, others may stall at any point in the TBI recovery stages due to the nature of their injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, you don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to one of our personal injury attorneys to discuss your options.

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