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When should a brain injury survivor see a physiatrist?

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Division Director PM&R

Answer transcribed from Brightway's interview with Dr. Thomas Franz:

If it's a severe traumatic brain injury, I mean severe enough where somebody has an operation on the brain or where they're hospitalized for a long period or there's a prolonged period of coma or altered mental status. Most of those patients are going to need to be seen by a physiatrist in the hospital in consultation and often transferred to a rehabilitation unit or facility to complete their recovery from an acute injury. Whether that's an accident or in some cases the acquired brain injury might be due to a hemorrhage in the brain, other conditions that aren't traumatic. But regardless, if the functional result is the same, people will likely in those more severe cases require physiatry and rehabilitation both in the hospital and immediately afterwards for some weeks in some form of either a hospital-based unit or freestanding rehab hospital.

If someone has a lesser brain injury, but it's really not even a concussion, for example, a person might have a single concussion and thankfully 85 percent or so of people with concussions maybe you're seen in the emergency room, they're told some symptoms to look out for, they have a few days of problems and then they go on their way. But 15 of patients have some persistent symptoms that can be light sensitivity, dizziness, migraines, and if these things are persisting, you're really going to more likely get relief for those conditions from a physiatrist, somebody who is familiar with brain injury than from a lot of your general medical community.