You couldn’t believe the day it happened. Your mother was on her way to spend the day shopping at Truman Corners, but instead she was involved in a pileup on I-49. She was flown to HCA Midwest with serious head trauma—and the doctors aren’t sure what to expect from her condition. You want to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst—so you’re reading everything you can about brain stem injuries as you wait for her to wake up.
What Are Some Symptoms of a Brain Stem Injury?
While the symptoms of a brain stem injury will vary depending on the intensity of the damage, patients can experience anything from mild cognitive impairments to prolonged coma. Here are a few ways to determine what effects your relative’s injury will have:
- As with most brain injuries, the effects of trauma to the brain stem can be greatly reduced if treated early. Immediate intervention may not be able to prevent all symptoms, but can stop the spread of damage and prevent the injury from having drastic or permanent outcomes.
- To understand the full extent of injury, patients will likely need to have brain imaging scans such as CT scans or a MRI, as well as an examination by a neurologist.
- Loss of consciousness is common after a brain stem injury. Mild injury will often result in temporary loss of consciousness followed by minor physical issues, such as a loss of balance and sensory problems. This can include an inability to feel or recognize pain. Severe brain stem damage may result in prolonged unconsciousness with abnormal heart rates, or a persistent vegetative state with little likelihood of waking.
- In minor injury cases, patients may have difficulty speaking and swallowing, as the brain stem also controls cranial nerves necessary to perform normal facial movements.
- Common treatments after brain stem damage include physical therapy and medication. Many patients benefit from assistive devices such as wheelchairs for lost mobility or speaking devices if they have trouble communicating.
The important thing to remember is to stay positive. Listen to the doctor’s recommendations, take your mother’s injury recovery slowly, and celebrate each milestone she makes. For more help on helping a brain injury patient recover, click the link on this page to read our FREE e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.