What Kinds of Rehabilitation Should a TBI Patient Receive?

Rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process for a TBI patient. During the acute stage, moderately to severely injured patients may receive treatment and care in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Once stable, the patient may be transferred to a subacute unit of the medical center or to an independent rehabilitation hospital. At this point, patients follow many diverse paths toward recovery because there are a wide variety of options for rehabilitation.

Testing by a trained neuropsychologist can assess the individual’s cognitive, language, behavioral, motor, and executive functions and provide information regarding the need for rehabilitative services.

In 1998, the NIH held a Consensus Development Conference on Rehabilitation of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury. The Consensus Development Panel recommended that TBI patients receive an individualized rehabilitation program based upon the patient’s strengths and capacities and that rehabilitation services should be modified over time to adapt to the patient’s changing needs.* The panel also recommended that moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation treatment that draws on the skills of many specialists. This involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support. Medical personnel who provide this care include rehabilitation specialists, such as rehabilitation nurses, psychologists, speech/language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, physiatrists (physical medicine specialists), social workers, and a team coordinator or administrator.

* National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement, October 26-28, 1998. Rehabilitation of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury. Bethesda, MD, September 1999.

tbi_9Rehabilitation therapy is an important part of the recovery process of TBI patients. Above, a physical therapist works with a patient to help improve her ability to walk.

The overall goal of rehabilitation after a TBI is to improve the patient’s ability to function at home and in society. Therapists help the patient adapt to disabilities or change the patient’s living space, called environmental modification, to make everyday activities easier.

Some patients may need medication for psychiatric and physical problems resulting from the TBI. Great care must be taken in prescribing medications because TBI patients are more susceptible to side effects and may react adversely to some pharmacological agents. It is important for the family to provide social support for the patient by being involved in the rehabilitation program. Family members may also benefit from psychotherapy.

It is important for TBI patients and their families to select the most appropriate setting for rehabilitation. There are several options, including home-based rehabilitation, hospital outpatient rehabilitation, inpatient rehabilitation centers, comprehensive day programs at rehabilitation centers, supportive living programs, independent living centers, club-house programs, school based programs for children, and others. The TBI patient, the family, and the rehabilitation team members should work together to find the best place for the patient to recover.

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