Combined motor disturbances following severe traumatic brain injury: An integrative long-term treatment approach

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Patients surviving severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) often suffer from residual impairments in motor control, communication skills, cognition and social behaviour. These distinctly hamper their capability to return to their 'pre-trauma' activity. Comprehensive and integrated rehabilitation programmes initiate, during the acute phase, a prolonged treatment process which starts at the most sophisticated medical systems. There is no clear end point for the treatment of these patients, since the recovery process and the rehabilitation activity may continue for years, even after patients return home to live with their families. The inherent inability to make a firm early prediction regarding outcome of patients and the late appearance of additional symptoms stress the need for a comprehensive close long-term follow-up. The following presentation concerns the description of the treatment strategy and long-term improvement of a 22-year-old male who suffered from very severe TBI. On admission to the emergency room, he was in the decerebrated position and his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) was at the lowest (3). The focus of this presentation is on the recovery of motor function. The initial motor disabilities included weakness in all four limbs, in particular left hemiplegia, and right hemiparesis with severe bilateral ataxic elements and a marked tremor of the right arm. Range of motion was limited in hips, and he suffered from stiff trunk and neck. Goals of physiotherapy were directed towards improving range of motion (ROM) and active movement. Casting, use of orthoses, biofeedback, hydrotherapy, hippotherapy, medication and nerve blocks for reducing spasticity were timely applied during the process. The motor improvement in this very severe TBI patient who is now over 3 years post-injury still continues and has a functional meaning. He has succeeded in being able to stand up by himself from a chair and is able to walk unaided and without orthoses for very short distances - up to five steps. He is able to drink soup without assistance and play a few notes on the piano. Marked cognitive improvement occurred as well. It is concluded that motor improvement may be evident over long periods of time and various timely interventions may assist in the process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-638
Number of pages6
JournalBrain Injury
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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