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How long do the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) last in children?

A: While each injury is unique and different, the most recent research (2007) indicates that brain injuries can have effects lasting more than two years in children. Unfortunately, some traumatic brain injuries are permanent and can even cause death. The precise duration your child can be expected to suffer from symptoms of traumatic brain injury depend on several factors. Two important factors are the child’s age and the severity of the injury.

Younger children suffer from symptoms of traumatic brain injury for a longer time on average than older children.The reason is that younger children have more developing to do than older children. A young brain that is injured is forced to do two things at once: heal and grow. Brain growth is substantial during a child’s younger years. An injured brain that still has to grow usually heals more slowly than a brain that is not devoting as many resources to growing.

Naturally, more severe injuries take longer to heal. However, even moderate brain injuries can take as long to heal as severe brain injuries. A 2007 UCLA study measured the recoveries of child victims of traumatic brain injury. Researchers categorized the injuries as mild, moderate or severe based on the Glasgow Coma Scale which doctors use to determine the severity of brain injuries. The disappointing results showed that moderate brain injury victims required almost the same recovery time as severe brain injury victims – about two years.

Child victims of moderate brain injury experienced some recovery of intellectual functioning and attention span, but the neuro-cognitive damage persisted about 24 months. Child victims of severe brain injury experienced significant IQ, attention, verbal memory and processing speed impairment. Traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death and disability for children.

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