When it comes to the prognosis of infant brain damage, there is never a set or fixed answer as this type of injury covers a wide spectrum. Since brain injuries are so complex and no two injuries are the same, a proper prognosis for severe brain damage and even mild brain trauma may take months and even years. There are several determinants that physicians assess and evaluate to get a general idea of the prognosis.
Mild Infant Brain Damage
The good news is that most infant brain injuries are mild, and in many instances, infants are able to fully physically recover with the right treatment. It may takes a long time for recovery, sometimes even years, despite myths that people with mild brain injuries recover quickly. In addition, the baby may have good days and bad days. For example, one day the infant may coo and smile and the next day become inexplicably fussy. This is normal behavior for infants who suffer from mild brain damage.
However, since infants and children’s brains are not fully developed yet, even mild brain damage may result in permanent cognitive and emotional disabilities. These impairments may not be obvious right away and may take a few years to develop. Sometimes the disabilities aren’t discovered until the child enters school.
According to research performed by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia, children who experienced brain injuries were more likely to have lower IQs, behavioral problems, and impaired cognitive function.
“Many people think that the soft skull of a baby may give them some advantage because if they fall they are not likely to sustain a skull fracture. Also, because a baby’s brain is growing so quickly, it seems like the brain may be able to fix an injury. In reality, the soft skull and growing brain of a baby put them at a greater risk of future problems. Children with significant head injuries do recover, but they are generally slower to learn concepts, and some high-level skills are often too difficult for them,”
said postdoctoral research officer Louis Brown, the leader of the study.
If a child develops cognitive, behavioral, or physical impairments, doctors may prescribe medication and recommend physical and occupational therapy.
Severe Infant Brain Damage
Severe infant brain damage is of course more serious than mild brain damage. After a severe brain injury, an infant’s brain begins to change, leading to heightened pressure in the skull, and it not treated immediately, may lead to additional brain damage and possibly death. Surgery and medication are often used to treat severe brain damage. However, the outcome depends upon how quickly the injury was treated and how well the patients reacts to treatment.
After treatment, the infant may be in a catatonic or unconscious state while recovering. The amount of time a patient is unconscious will again depend upon the final outcome of the treatment.
Long-term prognosis for infants who suffered brain damage is typically marked by host of cognitive, psychological, and physical disabilities, which get worse with the severity of the injury.
Seizures occur in 1 in every 10 people who experience traumatic brain injuries. Cause by abnormal signals in the brains, seizures may only last for a few days, but in some cases, they can last for years. Infants and children may develop epilepsy if they have more than one seizure, which can last a lifetime.
Infant Spasticity Issues
When the brain is severely damaged, infants are at risk for spasticity and disorders such as cerebral palsy. Spasticity affects the way a person crawls, walks, holds objects, and other daily activities that requires major muscle use. Although medication and therapy will help reduce muscle stiffness, contractures, and other effect of spasticity, it’s usually a permanent disorder, depending upon the severity.
Cognitive issues are one of the most prominent consequences of brain damage, and as previously mentioned, can affect any infant who suffers from brain damage, whether mild or severe. Cognitive problems are usually long-term and marked by memory loss, impaired thinking skills, behavioral problems, and mental health issues such as depression, aggression, anxiety, and inappropriate behavior in social situations.
Heterotopic Ossification (HO) occurs when trauma from the brain releases certain chemicals that react adversely to the body’s major joints. The chemicals cause a bone to form around the joints, resulting in limited mobility. Radio therapy and surgery are typically scheduled for severe cases of HO although there is no treatment that’s been confirmed as definitive.
Keep in mind that if your infant suffers from brain, there is no set answer to the prognosis of their injuries. As mentioned earlier, brain damage differs from one person to the next, and so do the symptoms. While one person may have no physical problems, another may have trouble walking. On the same token, one person have normal cognition while another may experience difficulties in learning and retaining information. The most important thing to remember is consistent care and treatment, not only at home, but with your baby’s health care providers, including a physician, and if applicable, therapists and psychologists.