After suffering a brain injury, people often wonder, How long can you live with brain damage? While the answer depends on multiple factors, the risk of death after a brain injury generally depends on the injury’s severity and location. Mild brain injuries, such as concussions, don’t typically cause death. But more severe brain injuries can be life-threatening. Keep reading to learn about the risk of death following a brain injury, brain injury life expectancy, and the steps you can take to minimize your risk.
How Long Can You Live with Brain Damage?
Does a brain injury shorten life expectancy? While the answer depends on numerous factors, about 50% of people living with a traumatic brain injury die within five years of suffering the injury. Even after surviving a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and receiving inpatient rehabilitation services, a person’s life expectancy is typically nine years shorter than someone without one. A TBI also increases the risk of dying from several other causes, including seizures and infections. During a 30-year study conducted by the School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that the median period between a head injury and death was 4.7 years.
What Factors Influence the Risk of Death from a TBI?
TBIs can result from trauma ranging from a simple blow to the head to a penetrating injury caused by incidents such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, and violence. In the United States, around 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury yearly.
Luckily, mild brain injuries rarely pose a high risk of death. However, moderate to severe TBIs can lead to complications such as brain swelling, bleeding, and increased intracranial pressure, which can be life-threatening. Other risk factors that can lead to death include:
- Location of the injury—Injuries to certain parts of the brain, such as the brainstem or the basal ganglia, can be particularly dangerous due to the roles these parts of the brain play in regulating vital functions, such as breathing and heart rate.
- Type of brain injury—Brain injuries like concussions from a knock on the head rarely cause lasting damage, while anoxic brain injuries can be deadly. In fact, anoxic brain injury life expectancy drops with every minute a victim goes without oxygen.
- Age—Older individuals face a higher risk of death following a TBI. This may be because of a decreased ability to recover due to age or other health complications.
- Overall health and pre-existing medical conditions—Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, and individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol may be at an increased risk of death.
- Time to medical intervention—The quicker an individual receives medical attention after a brain injury, the better their chances of survival.
- Multiple injuries—Individuals who sustain multiple injuries in addition to a brain injury, such as fractures or internal injuries, may have a higher risk of death.
- Injury mechanism—The cause of the brain injury may also play a role in the risk of death. For example, a gunshot wound to the head carries a higher risk of death than an injury sustained from a fall.
- Quality of medical care—Individuals who receive access to advanced medical interventions, such as neurosurgery or mechanical ventilation, may have a better chance of surviving a severe brain injury.
By understanding these factors and implementing strategies to minimize risk, you can improve TBI outcomes and provide the support survivors need to lead fulfilling lives.
How Do I Reduce the Risk of Death from a Brain Injury?
While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of death following a brain injury, a person’s brain damage recovery chances may be increased by taking the following steps:
- Seek prompt medical attention—Seeking early intervention can help prevent further damage and complications.
- Seek multidisciplinary care—A team approach involving medical professionals from various disciplines, such as neurologists, neurosurgeons, critical care specialists, and rehabilitation specialists, can optimize patient care and outcomes. This collaborative approach ensures that all recovery aspects are addressed, including a brain injury’s physical, cognitive, and emotional consequences.
- Seek nutritional support—Proper nutrition, including a diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, is crucial for brain injury recovery, providing the energy and nutrients required for healing and rehabilitation.
- Monitor medications—If a brain injury requires medications to manage associated symptoms and complications, such as seizures, pain, or depression, it is essential that healthcare providers carefully monitor their use to minimize potential side effects.
- Attend all medical appointments—Regular exams and appointments with healthcare providers can help identify any potential complications, monitor progress, and help detect and address any new or worsening symptoms.
- Complete rehabilitation—A comprehensive program, including physical, occupational, speech, and neuropsychological therapy, can improve functional outcomes, reduce disability, and improve quality of life.
- Attend support groups and counseling—Support groups provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and connect with others with TBIs. Counseling can also help individuals and their families cope with a brain injury’s emotional and psychological impacts, address any mental health concerns, and develop strategies for managing everyday challenges.
- Take preventative measures—Preventive strategies include wearing helmets while participating in sports or riding bicycles and ensuring that homes have safely reduced the risk of falls.
- Drive safely—People should always wear seat belts while driving or riding in a vehicle and secure children in age-appropriate car seats or booster seats. As impaired driving significantly increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents and brain injuries, individuals should also avoid driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
By taking steps to prevent brain injuries and seeking prompt medical attention if one occurs, you can reduce your risk of death and improve your chances of recovery.
GJEL Accident Attorneys: Your TBI Advocates
At GJEL, we offer compassionate and personalized representation to TBI sufferers. If someone else’s negligence caused you or a loved one’s TBI and you want to work with the best personal injury team Fresno offers, call GJEL at 1-866-268-7118 for a free case review. In our over 40 years of practice, we’ve recovered nearly $1 billion for injury victims while maintaining a 99% success rate. Let us battle with insurance companies for the settlement you deserve while you focus on recovering.
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