Posttraumatic Amnesia

The third major indicator of the severity of brain injury is Posttraumatic Amnesia or PTA. This is the period of time of amnesia or memory loss during the period after the trauma (post trauma). It is however, much more than a period of memory loss or memory disturbance. It’s a period of confusion, disorientation, and sometimes agitation. During this period, the accident victim may remember OLD memories that were properly stored in the brain before the accident. However, the injured person’s ability to remember new information will be impaired. This leads to disorientation and the inability to remember things which happen on a daily basis (short term memory loss).

Posttraumatic Amnesia provides a very good indication of how memory and cognition will be affected over the long term. It’s often a more useful indicator of severity than the duration of a coma. This is especially true when there is no coma following a traumatic accident involving a brain or head injury. Severity of Posttraumatic Amnesia is usually described in the following way:

< 1 hourMild
1-24 hoursModerate
1-7 daysSevere
> 7 daysVery Severe

It should be noted that not all people who have sustained a brain injury will fit into the above noted classifications. This is because the brain is so complex, and everyone and the mechanism of injury is always different. In addition, variables are constantly changing.

Once you know the degree of severity of the brain injury, it will better help steer your doctor and the rehabilitation team in the right direction towards a road to recovery. Everyone involved in the care of the brain injured accident victim will have a better idea about the injury, and what needs to be done.

The early days following a brain injury will be scary, confusing and frightening for everyone involved. It may seem as if an army of professionals is bustling around the accident victim, trying the keep that person alive and prevent possible complications. There might be so many tubes or wires coming out of the body that you wonder whether or not he/she will ever be able to do anything again on his or her own.

As you begin to grasp the severity of the injury, you may feel hopeful because his injury is considered less severe, or saddened because his injury is more severe. Regardless of the severity of the injury, the most important thing is to remain positive throughout, and optimistic about recovery. We can’t change the past, we can only look ahead and make best with the cards we’ve been dealt.

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Sunnybrook Foundation OBIA OTLA American Association for Justice